Mars to get large bite of UK space mission cash

The UK has pledged almost £600 million to Europe’s space programme over the next four years, including future Mars missions and a variety of new satellite projects.


The UK has pledged almost 900m Euros (£600m) to Europe’s space programme over the next four years, including future Mars missions and a variety of new satellite projects.


The Aurora programme, which includes a number of missions to explore Mars, will receive 108m Euros towards its first, ExoMars. This will analyse the biological make-up of the planet in preparation for future human exploration, and aims to advance scientists’ understanding of exobiology — the search for life on other planets. ExoMars will require the development of a new Mars orbiter, a descent module and a rover vehicle.


In a decision eagerly awaited by the space technology industry, it was also announced that the UK is also to subscribe to the GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security) programme.


Science minister Lord Sainsbury claimed the decision to contribute almost e9m to GMES was ‘a ground-breaking step in co-operation with the EC.’


GMES is a pan-European network of satellites designed to help monitor the Earth’s climate change, man-made catastrophes and for civil defence, among other applications. Initially, three fast-track services for emergency response, land monitoring, and marine services are due to be operational by 2008.


The Emergency Management service aims to reinforce Europe’s capacity to predict and respond to crises and emergencies associated with natural and man-made disasters. The Land Monitoring service will deliver important information on land use and land cover changes and the Marine Services will provide data on the condition of the seas, including temperature changes.


GMES will also incorporate existing satellite networks and capabilities such as the environmental monitoring satellite ENVISAT and will be the second flagship EU space policy after Europe’s global satellite navigation system, Galileo.


Other services as part of GMES will follow in 2009–2013, according to a deployment plan currently under discussion at ESA. The UK has also pledged almost 23m Euros towards ARTES, a project that develops specific technology for the telecoms market.