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Life-seeking space probe blasts off for Mars

Posted on Monday, 14 March, 2016 | Comment icon 18 comments

After the probe lands, the orbiter will continue to analyze the Martian atmosphere. Image Credit: ESA
The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) successfully launched from Baikonur in Kazakhstan this morning.
The first of two ExoMars missions, the probe will arrive in orbit around the Red Planet in October where its lander, Schiaparelli, will detach and head down to the Martian surface.

As it descends it will reach a top speed of 21,000km/h and will use a combination of a heatshield, a parachute and a cushion of crushable material on its underside to help it survive the landing.

The main goal of the mission will be to detect and analyze traces of methane in the planet's atmosphere, a gas that could indicate the presence of microbial life.

Scientists will be particularly excited if the methane on Mars is found to be laced with the isotope carbon-12 as this would suggest that its origins are biological, rather than geological.

"This is a series of missions that's trying to address one of the fundamental questions in science: is there life anywhere else besides the Earth ?" said planetary scientist Dr Peter Grindrod.

"Finding that life exists elsewhere in the solar system would be a huge discovery, so the evidence has to be strong. As they say, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."

Source: BBC News | Comments (18)

Tags: ExoMars

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #9 Posted by Calibeliever on 15 March, 2016, 13:36
Does anyone know why we gave up on Venus? Too much methane and other stuff in the atmosphere? The biggest reason is the heat and atmospheric pressure. They eat probes for breakfast. It's very difficult to design something that can survive in that environment for more than a few minutes (without it weighing so much that strapping it to a rocket becomes impractical). There was talk last decade about designing an upper atmospheric probe, like a balloon, but I haven't heard anything recently on that.
Comment icon #10 Posted by kartikg on 15 March, 2016, 19:06
Hi Pallidin. Thanks for the response. I ve one more query why not microscopes which can "see" bacteria or life forms are / were not included in the missions?
Comment icon #11 Posted by pallidin on 15 March, 2016, 19:40
Hi Pallidin. Thanks for the response. I ve one more query why not microscopes which can "see" bacteria or life forms are / were not included in the missions? Yeah. I don't know why the optics for microscopic imaging were not such to image such things as you describe. Presumably NASA engineers had their reasons, but I don't know what they based their decision on.
Comment icon #12 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 15 March, 2016, 21:38
Hi Pallidin. Thanks for the response. I ve one more query why not microscopes which can "see" bacteria or life forms are / were not included in the missions? There are several reasons why this is not the best approach. Firstly simply pointing a microscope at the ground might be a good way to see rock types, it is not the way to see bacteria. Samples need to be carefully prepared. I have no doubt that NASA (or in this case ESA) could produce a robotic way of doing this but it would be expensive and complicated. A second problem is that high magnification is needed to see bacteria, at least 400x... [More]
Comment icon #13 Posted by bigjonalien on 16 March, 2016, 10:14
So the question is- did we come from monkeys or did the aliens help us evolve?
Comment icon #14 Posted by paperdyer on 16 March, 2016, 19:23
So the question is- did we come from monkeys or did the aliens help us evolve? That's the $64,000 question, isn't it?
Comment icon #15 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 23 March, 2016, 20:00
ExoMars performing flawlessly 23 March 2016 Following a spectacular liftoff, ESA’s ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter is performing flawlessly en route to the Red Planet.The ESA–Roscosmos ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) and the Schiaparelli entry, descent and landing demonstrator are well on their way following the 14 March launch from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Read more...
Comment icon #16 Posted by AustinHinton on 24 March, 2016, 14:03
So the question is- did we come from monkeys or did the aliens help us evolve? Neither. We came from Savannah-living apes.
Comment icon #17 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 15 April, 2016, 20:10
First light for ExoMars 14 April 2016 The ESA–Roscosmos ExoMars spacecraft are in excellent health following launch last month, with the orbiter sending back its first test image of a starry view taken en route to the Red Planet.In the weeks following liftoff on 14 March, mission operators and scientists have been intensively checking the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) and the Schiaparelli entry, descent, and landing demonstrator to ensure they will be ready for Mars in October. Read more...
Comment icon #18 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 28 July, 2016, 16:59
Engine burn gives Mars mission a kick  

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