UK Joins Next Stage of Aurora

October 1, 2004
UK Joins Next Stage of Aurora

Prof. Ian Halliday, Chief Executive of the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council [PPARC], confirmed an investment of GBP 3.5M [5M EUR] on behalf of the UK to the European Space Agency's [ESA] European Preparatory Space Exploration Programme - 'Aurora'. In addition, PPARC has set aside a further GBP 1.5M [2M EUR] which will be used for either UK national preparatory activities for Aurora or as additional contributions to ESA. The total budget ascribed to the preparatory programme by PPARC will thus be GBP 5M [7M EUR].

Speaking at a press conference today Prof. Halliday said, "Aurora is an exciting programme of space exploration to unravel the mysteries of our immediate cosmos, initially focusing on Europe's robotic exploration of Mars".

Prof. Halliday added, "Importantly the UK can make a real contribution both scientifically and industrially to Aurora, particularly in the fields of instrumentation, robotic surface rovers and entry, descent and landing systems technology. That is exactly why we have made a significant investment from our existing budget at this point in order to put the UK in a commanding position to shape and define a programme that meets our national scientific and industrial objectives".

This latest stage of ESA's Aurora programme will lead to a fully costed and defined programme by 2006, to include the first tranche of scientifically-orientated robotic missions which are likely to dominate the first ten years of the programme. Since Aurora is a long-term programme, potentially leading to a human mission to Mars circa 2033, the programme will be divided into 5-year periods allowing each country to revise its scope of participation, depending on actual outputs achieved at the end of each period and of national interests.

"The science case for Aurora is extremely strong as endorsed by PPARC's Science Committee," commented Prof. Halliday. "It will build on the excellent collaboration which already exists between UK academics and industrialists and will deliver new technologies and real industrial return. Ultimately it will be a decision for government whether or not the UK enters the full implementation programme. That will be the subject of future evaluation, decision making and investment. But by taking a leading role right now, the UK will be extremely well placed to make that judgement against a programme that aligns with our national goals."

ESA member states will announce their decision to participate in the full Aurora implementation programme at the next ESA ministerial-level Council meeting.

Commenting on the significance of today's announcement and its impact on current and future generations of scientists, Dr. Sarah Dunkin from the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and Vice President of the Royal Astronomical Society [RAS] said, "The decision to join this next phase of Aurora is welcomed by the RAS, reflecting our declared support for the programme earlier this year. It is good news and highlights the positive feeling of the community towards the programme, giving strong encouragement to young scientists and engineers in the UK. However, there is a need for a long term commitment to the programme otherwise these people will see their future in other countries".

Dunkin added," We need to secure our long-term future in science and technology - Aurora will provide an unprecedented training ground for our younger scientists and engineers, and in addition it's an accepted fact that space has an inspirational effect on children, enthusing them to pursue further education in science and technology and eventually full-time careers. Without that inspiration we stand to lose our next generation of scientists and technologists".

Prof. John Zarnecki of the Planetary & Space Sciences Research Institute at the Open University, a key member of the Task Group initiated by PPARC to evaluate the science case for UK involvement, said," Today's announcement by PPARC is really good news for the UK planetary space science community. We can now start to develop a credible programme that will help us to understand how readily life can evolve in the Universe and determine how common environments that could support life are. This is of profound scientific and philosophical importance".

"However, we are not out of the woods yet," added Prof. Zarnecki, "If we can mould Aurora to our UK science strengths then we need to sign-up to the full implementation programme and that will require new government money".

Prospects for UK industry were raised today as Dr. Mike Healy, Director Earth Observation, Navigation and Science at EADS Astrium explained. "We can now begin to exploit our leadership in entry, descent and landing systems - key technologies required for Aurora - reprising the expertise that went into the Beagle 2 Lander".

Source: PPARK

Explore further: Hubble captures vivid auroras in Jupiter's atmosphere

Related Stories

Hubble captures vivid auroras in Jupiter's atmosphere

June 30, 2016

Astronomers are using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope to study auroras—stunning light shows in a planet's atmosphere—on the poles of the largest planet in the Solar System, Jupiter. This observation programme is supported ...

Recommended for you

Android's Nougat update isn't flashy, but still pretty handy

September 28, 2016

Nougat, Google's latest update of its Android smartphone software, isn't particularly flashy; you might not even notice what's different about it at first. But it offers a number of practical time-saving features, plus a ...

Scientists investigate unidentified radio sources

September 28, 2016

(Phys.org)—A team of researchers led by Andrea Maselli of the Institute of Space Astrophysics and Cosmic Physics of Palermo, Italy, has conducted an observational campaign of a group of unassociated radio sources with NASA's ...

Research resolves a debate over 'killer electrons' in space

September 28, 2016

New findings by a UCLA-led international team of researchers answer a fundamental question about our space environment and will help scientists develop methods to protect valuable telecommunication and navigation satellites. ...

Toward 'greener,' inexpensive solar cells

September 28, 2016

Solar panels are proliferating across the globe to help reduce the world's dependency on fossil fuels. But conventional panels are not without environmental costs, too. Now scientists are reporting in the Journal of the American ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.