A joint mission has been launched by Roscosmos and the European Space Agency to explore the atmosphere of Mars and search for signs of life on the neighboring planet. It’s not a manned mission, they’ve sent up the unmanned ExoMars probe, the probe took off earlier today on a Russian rocket and is predicted to reach the Red Planet in October this year.
ExoMars has a Trace Gas Orbiter which is going to analyze methane and other gases in the Martian atmosphere to try and find out where they’re coming from. European Space Agency’s head of mission operations Paolo Ferri says that the methane in the atmosphere can’t be more than 400 years old.
“Four hundred years is nothing. If there is methane it means there is basically a process going on now,” he added, while pointing out that if life hasn’t been found on Mars yet it doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s no life there.
ESA is planning to send a rover to Mars in 2018 but until that mission launches, the probe is going to find a landing spot and conduct a test run with a trial lander called Schiaparelli that has gone along for the ride with this mission.
This is the first interplanetary mission that the ESA and Roscosmos have worked together on. It’s all being done in the interest of finding out whether or not man actually has a chance of establishing colonies on Mars.