ESPRESSO is the next generation ground based European exoplanets hunter. It will combine the efficiency of modern
echelle spectrograph with extreme radial-velocity and spectroscopic precision. It will be installed at Paranal's VLT in
order to achieve two magnitudes gain with respect to its predecessor HARPS, and the instrumental radial-velocity
precision will be improved to reach 10 cm/s level. We have constituted a Consortium of astronomical research institutes
to fund, design and build ESPRESSO on behalf of and in collaboration with ESO, the European Southern Observatory.
The spectrograph will be installed at the Combined Coudé Laboratory (CCL) of the VLT, it will be linked to the four 8.2
meters Unit Telescopes through four optical "Coudé trains" and will be operated either with a single telescope or with up
to four UTs, enabling an additional 1.5 magnitude gain. Thanks to its characteristics and ability of combining
incoherently the light of 4 large telescopes, ESPRESSO will offer new possibilities in many fields of astronomy. Our
main scientific objectives are, however, the search and characterization of rocky exoplanets in the habitable zone of
quiet, near-by G to M-dwarfs, and the analysis of the variability of fundamental physical constants. The project is, for
most of its workpackages, in the procurement or development phases, and the CCL infrastructure is presently under
adaptation work. In this paper, we present the scientific objectives, the capabilities of ESPRESSO, the technical solutions
for the system and its subsystems. The project aspects of this facility are also described, from the consortium and
partnership structure to the planning phases and milestones.