International Marco Polo Symposium

Organisateur :

Date prévue : Du 18 au 29 mai 2009
Date définitive : 2009-05-20


Marco Polo is a Near-Earth Object sample return mission studied within the Cosmic Vision programme. It is currently undergoing on industrial study up to end 2009.

Marco Polo was proposed in response to ESA's call for mission proposals as part of the new Cosmic Vision programme, suggesting missions with a launch date on 2017-2018. A total of 436 scientists from countries all over the world support the proposal. The mission is currently foreseen as a collaboration between ESA and JAXA. The US has already indicated an interest in a strong participation.

Small bodies in the solar system are leftover building blocks of the formation of the solar system. They offer clues to the chemical mixture from which the planets formed some 4.6 billion years ago. Also, current exobiological scenarios for the origin of life invoke an exogenous delivery of organic matter to the early Earth: it has been proposed that primitive bodies could have brought these complex organic molecules capable of triggering the pre-biotic synthesis of biochemical compounds on the early Earth. Moreover, collisions of NEOs with the Earth pose a finite hazard to life. For all these reasons, the exploration of such objects is particularly interesting and urgent.

The principal scientific objective of the Marco Polo mission is to return unaltered material from a NEO, for analysis in terrestrial laboratories, thereby obtaining measurements that cannot yet be performed from a robotic spacecraft (e.g. dating the major events in the history of a sample).

Workshop objectives

The workshop objectives are to present the current status of the Marco Polo study activities within ESA and the international scheme that is being put in place to make the mission happen. It also invites scientific presentations about the current state of asteroid research and sample analysis, in particular addressing points where a NEO sample return mission would contribute, and presentations about possible payload elements, sampling requirements, mechanisms and facilities.

This workshop will provide an opportunity to the wide planetary science community to interact with the Marco Polo Science Study Team and ESA to further refine the mission's goals, its science drivers, and the necessary technology developments for the science payload.