The UK Space Agency has announced £1.6m of funding to support projects exploring Mars as part of ESA’s Aurora Programme.
Academics and students can apply for funding to be used in projects that aim to better understand the past and present environment and geophysics of Mars, characterise the biological environment of the planet and search for traces of past and present life.
“Understanding the conditions that could have supported life on Mars is an important step towards addressing one of mankind’s most fundamental questions: are we alone in the Universe?" said Dr David Williams, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency.
"Thanks to the scientific and technological advances made from investment in programmes like Aurora, we can address this question by exploring our solar system."
Mars is one of the key planets studied by scientists as it is the most Earth-like planet in the solar system, and is most likely planet to have supported life at some time in its history as it shows substantial evidence of surface water in the past.
Dr Williams said the Aurora project, a European long-term plan for exploration of the solar system, "brings together the best of UK minds and industry, further develops our highly-skilled space sector and delivers economic impact through technology spin-outs”.
Funding is open to academics and Research Council Institutions for proposals to fund:
- Project Studentships to develop researchers to exploit future data sets from Mars missions
- Individual Fellowships to develop promising young researchers or allow existing academics to discipline-hop
- Research Assistants to support academics on Mars related science
- Support for academics to participate in international science teams to exploit data from future missions such as Nasa's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL)
See announcement at UK Space Agency