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 On Things to Come Webinar

ESA's ExoMars Missions
Scientific exploration of planet Mars

Speaker: Athena Coustenis (French Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) at Paris Observatory, France)
Wednesday, 2 June 2021 
4 pm GMT+8

Watch it live on Zoom (up to 100 participants)
Meeting ID: 884 7211 9527

Passcode: 522201

Watch it live on Bilibili here!


The European Space Agency (ESA) has a very robust and ambitious program for the exploration of the solar system and the exoplanets that are foreseen to extend well beyond 2050. Within that program, Mars holds a special place with many achievements already by missions like Mars Express and the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, as well as future aspirations with the ExoMars 2022 mission and significant contributions to the Mars Sample return project. 
Benefiting from the Red Planet’s accessibility, its thorough investigation by Russia and the US is well into 40 years by now. The search for life is a major element of all present and future Mars missions, including ESA's Mars Express which is in operation since 2003. The ExoMars program, a collaboration between ESA and Roscosmos, comprises two missions: the Trace Gas Orbiter launched in 2016, and the ExoMars 2022 carrier module, descent module, Kazachok surface platform, and Rosalind Franklin rover, which will drill down to 2m near Oxia Planum. Together with other Martian missions, such as NASA’s Mars 2020/Perseverence, the ExoMars missions will investigate the planet’s unique features. Exploring Mars and bringing samples back in the 2030s, under the COSPAR planetary protection policy, is the logical next step and ESA is working with NASA to develop the international Mars Sample Return campaign. ESA’s Sample Fetch Rover and the Earth Return Orbiter are critical elements of this campaign.
Whether with traditional partners like NASA and Roscosmos or with new fellow explorers and commercial associates, the European robotic exploration plan of action for Mars holds exciting promises for the coming decades, including eventually manned missions.

About Athena Coustenis

Athena Coustenis is Director of Research with the French Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) at Paris Observatory, specializing in Astrophysics and Planetology. She contributes to the development of space missions and analyzes the acquired data to investigate the atmospheres and surfaces of planets, satellites, and exoplanets. She was actively involved since its development in the Cassini-Huygens mission and she is currently a Co-I of the ESA future JUICE and ARIEL missions. Her scientific production record includes about 260 papers and 700 presentations. She is currently the Chair of: 

- the European Space Agency’s Human Exploration and Science Advisory Committee, 
- the COSPAR Panel on Planetary Protection and the Science Evaluation Committee of the French National Center for Space Studies. 

She is also a member of several other international advisory bodies within ESA, the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, the International Academy of Astronautics, or the IAU Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature. 

She has served in the past, among others, as 

- Chair of the European Space Science Committee of the European Science Foundation, 

- President of the ESA Solar System and Exploration Working Group, 

- President of the International Association of Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences, 

- President of the Division of Planetary and Solar System Sciences of the European Geophysical Union, 

- Secretary of the American Astronomical Society Division for Planetary Sciences and Vice-President of the Europlanet Society. 

She has been recognized with several Group Achievement and Public Service Awards from NASA and ESA, the AAS-DPS 2014 Masursky Award, and the 2019 Al Seiff Memorial IPPW Award.


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Yuan Weimin – CAS Einstein Probe Mission
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Hal Levison – NASA Lucy Mission
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