Europe and Russia ExoMars Mission to Search Life on Red Planet
Thursday, March 13, 2014
Europe and Russia are all set to begin a new mission to Mars to look for methane and dig through the Martian soil for traces of life. The mission known as ExoMars will send unmanned probes to uncover signs of past or present life on the red planet.
The project to be completed in two parts in two years will include the ExoMars 2016 mission and ExoMars 2018 mission. ExoMars 2016, equipped with One Trace Gas Orbiter, will look for methane hotspots, water vapour and other trace gases in the Martian atmosphere and study whether its evolution is the result of biological or geological process. ExoMars 2018 mission, on the other hand, will be equipped with a drill that would burrow deep below the radiation–baked Martian surface and look for chemical fingerprints of life.
While the American rovers have paved the way by investigating whether the Martian environment is or ever was suitable for living microbes, none of them were equipped to search for life. The ExoMars missions are jointly undertaken by the European Space Agency and the Russian Federal Space Agency. The orbiter would also carry a high–resolution coloured 3D camera called CaSSIS (Colour and Stereo Surface Imaging System) to take pictures of the surface objects as small as 15 to 20 metres across. Moreover, CaSSIS will also build up 3D maps of craters, mountains, dunes and other surface features.