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The Astrophysical Context of Life
missions such as Mars Express, Cassini-Huygens, Rosetta, and others provides an important basis for astrobiological research related to planetary exploration. A new European space research program, Aurora,16 was endorsed by the European Union Council of Research and the ESA Council in 2001 and is currently in study phase. Aurora is part of Europe’s strategy for human exploration of our solar system and for the stimulation of new technology. Europe’s future in astrobiology will strongly depend on a coherent funding system involving large European organizations. The implementation of a comprehensive space policy within Europe, which is currently being discussed, could benefit astrobiology in Europe. Continuation and further development of the ESA-Aurora program and the successful outcome of planetary missions currently in orbit (e.g., Mars-Express, Cassini-Huygens) will be an important trigger for the funding of future European research programs in astrobiology. The European Space Science Committee (ESSC) is the ESF expert committee on European space research issues.17 ESSC aims to promote and facilitate the definition and the organization of space research programs in Europe by providing an independent forum on European space policy. By evaluating European space missions and in particular the Aurora program, ESSC and ESF are indirectly supporting astrobiology. Furthermore, ESF and ESSC try to establish a coordinated program within Europe between the science community and official organizations such as the Marine Board and the Polar Board (ESF) to explore new avenues of research on life in extreme environments.