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New space probe set to seek out life on Mars


Posted on Monday, 7 March, 2016 | Comment icon 5 comments

Will the ExoMars lander find evidence of life on Mars ? Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Europe and Russia are launching a joint mission next week to land a spacecraft on the surface of Mars.
The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) will be blasting off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on March 14 and will arrive at its destination on October 19.

If all goes according to plan a small lander called Schiaparelli will detach from the main spacecraft and head down to the Martian surface where it will monitor the planet's atmosphere for signs of methane - a gas that could indicate the presence of extraterrestrial life forms.

The probe's instruments, which are much more sensitive than those on any previous lander, will be capable of analyzing any traces of methane in an effort to determine what might be producing it.

If the gas is found to be accompanied by sulphur dioxide for instance and is linked to geological features on the surface then it is most likely to be the product of volcanic activity.

Methane laced with isotope carbon-12 on the other hand could be potentially biological in origin.

"Detecting methane by itself doesn’t tell you whether it is produced biologically or geologically – you need to look at the whole suite of atmospheric behavior," said planetary scientist Bruce Jakosky.

"That would be considered the home run for TGO, to define the source of methane."

The Trace Gas Orbiter is the first of two ESA missions designed to seek out life on Mars with the second - the ExoMars rover - due to launch in 2018 for a landing early the following year.

Source: New Scientist | Comments (5)

Tags: Mars, ExoMars

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Derek Willis on 7 March, 2016, 17:09
The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter a.k.a. the Martian Fart Detector.
Comment icon #2 Posted by Chibadiba on 7 March, 2016, 19:11
The Viking 1 and 2 program already found life on Mars in a similar but much smaller way.
Comment icon #3 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 7 March, 2016, 19:24
The Viking 1 and 2 program already found life on Mars in a similar but much smaller way. The Viking results were highly ambiguous to say the least. There was nothing found by Viking that could not be explained by purely chemical processes. There are scientists that believe that the Viking results may indicate life, but they are in the minority. With no unambiguous confirmation it can not be claimed, scientifically, that Viking found life.
Comment icon #4 Posted by Trust_no_one on 20 March, 2016, 12:29
I think the human race come from mars millions of years ago and Have forgotten but remember in our subconscious that why we are so obsessed with finding a way to get there because maybe the answer we are clearly looking for are there.
Comment icon #5 Posted by Noteverythingisaconspiracy on 20 March, 2016, 13:09
I think the human race come from mars millions of years ago and Have forgotten but remember in our subconscious that why we are so obsessed with finding a way to get there because maybe the answer we are clearly looking for are there. Then how do you explain the fossil record that shows the evolution of mankind (Homo Sapiens) ? Sometimes it is a good idea to ask yourself this question: "Does this make any sense ?"


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