A Mars rover mission to be launched in June 2011 and land on the Red Planet in 2013 has been recommended under the European Space Agency (ESA) Aurora exploration programme, writes Tim Furniss.
To be launched by a Soyuz-ST-2B booster from Sinnamary, French Guiana, the rover will "search for traces of past or present life". ESA also intends to commit to participation in an international Mars sample return mission in 2016.
The rover mission – to be considered at the next ESA ministerial meeting in December – will be supported by a NASA orbiter providing data-relay services and will characterise the subsurface composition and identify surface and environmental hazards to future human missions.
The rover will measure seismic phenomena, which could be caused by volcanoes, hydrothermal activity or "Marsquakes" and will be able to drill to a depth of 2m (6.5ft).
Source: Flight International