ExoMars mission to find life on Mars launches


On Monday morning, the ExoMars spacecraft launched from Kazakhstan in hopes of learning more about the Red planet.

The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGA) and the Schiaparelli landing module are seeking methane and other atmospheric gas emissions in Mars’ atmosphere. If these are detected, then it means life could be on the planet. However, it will take an estimated seven months for the TGA to reach Mars. On October 19, the ship will enter the planet’s orbit and the Schiaparelli will begin its descent for surface research.

The mission is a joint operation between the Russian and the European Space Agency (ESA). The plan is that while circling the planet, it will be able to detect and measure very small amounts of natural gases in the atmosphere. It will then compare these results to the large amounts of natural gases that are produced on Earth.

“The Orbiter will perform detailed, remote observations of the Martian atmosphere, searching for evidence of gases of possible biological importance, such as methane and its degradation products,” said the ESA.

If detected, the gases could in fact be the waste of microbial organisms within the planet, according to scientists. Many more gases are capable of being detected such as acetylene, nitrogen oxide, and water vapor. However, the most significant would still be methane because it’s a signal that life is in fact there.

On its website, the European Space Agency said, “However, other purely geological processes, such as the oxidation of certain minerals, also release methane.”

This means that even if methane is detected, it still doesn’t mean there’s a one-hundred percent chance of life, but the odds are certainly much higher. Other than finding these gases, the mission will also be testing important technology that will be beneficial to the future of Mars missions.

Operations on the orbiter are expected to last for at least five years but scientists have yet to confirm that. In 2018, the ESA hopes to launch an ExoMars rover mission that will last for four years and use the TGA to relay information to Earth.

In the meantime, it will be very interesting to see what comes from this intriguing mission.