Europe Shapes Future Moon, Mars Exploration Plan

European advanced planners are sketching out a master plan for stepping out into space, beyond the International Space Station. The European Space Agency (ESA) has given the go-ahead to start a new European long-term initiative for robotic and human exploration of the solar system. Tagged the Aurora program, the call-to-action agenda includes dispatching robotic and human space missions to bodies elsewhere in the solar system. In particular, the effort puts at high premium those celestial objects that hold promise for traces of life. The first year in a three-year “preparatory period” for Aurora is now underway, a time period dedicated to hammering out relevant technologies and types of future missions.