Brussels, 20 Jul 2005
Germany has announced that it will join the preparatory phase of the European space exploration programme Aurora, thus becoming the 12th country participating in the initiative.
The decision was warmly welcomed by the European Space Agency (ESA) and unanimously endorsed by the 11 other nations participating in Aurora. Scientists and industrial companies from Germany will now be able to play an active role in one of Europe's flagship space programmes.
'After the recent decision of France, Switzerland and Canada to increase their contributions, this decision further strengthens the Aurora programme and creates a positive momentum for the upcoming decisions at ministerial level,' said Daniel Sacotte, director of human spaceflight, microgravity and exploration at ESA.
The preparatory phase of Aurora began in 2001, aimed at defining a European framework for the exploration of the Moon and Mars. This includes the definition and design of the ExoMars mission, scheduled for launch in 2011, featuring a Mars lander and rover vehicle designed to carry out exobiology and geophysical analysis of the Martian surface.
Researchers from countries that have not yet joined Aurora have also expressed an interest in taking part in scientific teams related to ExoMars, notably from Denmark, Finland and Norway, and ESA feels that this is a sign that the number of countries participating in Aurora could rise further still.
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