An unmanned spacecraft named ExoMars 2016 was successfully launched jointly Europe and Russia to search for biosignatures on Mars (or Martian life) in past or present.
The spacecraft was launched on a Proton-M rocket operated by Russia’s Roscosmos from Baikonur, Kazakhstan. ExoMars 2016 is the first of a two-phase of ExoMars (Exobiology on Mars) program.
About ExoMars program
- ExoMars program is an astrobiology mission of European Space Agency (ESA) and Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos).
- Primary Goal: To address the question of whether life has ever existed on Mars.
- The program comprises two missions: ExoMars 2016 and ExoMars 2018.
- ExoMars 2016: It consists of the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) and Schiaparelli, an entry, descent and landing demonstrator module.
- Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO): Its sole purpose is to search (trace) evidence of methane (CH4) and other atmospheric gases that could be signatures of active biological or geological processes on Mars.
- TGO has 4 suites of science instruments. They are ACS (Atmospheric Chemistry Suite), FREND (Fine Resolution Epithermal Neutron Detector), CaSSIS (Color and Stereo Surface Imaging System) and NOMAD (Nadir and Occultation for MArs Discovery).
- Schiaparelli: It will obtain measurements of electric fields on the Mar’s surface combined with measurements of the concentration of atmospheric dust.
- For the first time it will provide new insights into the role of electric forces on dust lifting, the trigger for dust storms on the Martian surface.
- ExoMars 2018: It is planned to be launched in 2018. It comprises a unmanned rover and surface science platform.
- The rover that will carry a drill and a suite of instruments dedicated for the exobiology and geochemistry research.
At present there are two rovers functional on the Mars viz. Curiosity and Opportunity which were sent by NASA, the federal space agency of United States.