The ExoMars rover and Pasteur payload Phase A study: an approach to experimental astrobiology
The Aurora programme is the European Space Agency programme of planetary exploration focused primarily on Mars. Although the long-term goals of Aurora are uncertain, the early phases of the Aurora programme are based on a number of robotic explorer missions – the first of these is the ExoMars rover mission currently scheduled for launch in 2013 (originally 2011). The ExoMars rover – developed during a Phase A study – is a 240 kg Mars rover supporting a 40 kg payload (called Pasteur) of scientific instruments specifically designed for astrobiological prospecting to search for evidence of extant or extinct life. In other words, ExoMars represents a new approach to experimental astrobiology in which scientific instruments are robotically deployed at extraterrestrial environments of astrobiological interest. Presented is an outline of the design of the rover, its robotic technology, its instrument complement and aspects of the design decisions made. ExoMars represents a highly challenging mission, both programmatically and technologically. Some comparisons are made with the highly successful Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity.(Published Online September 20 2006)
Key Words: astrobiology instruments; experimental astrobiology; Mars exploration; robotic rover.