London: British scientists on Friday announced the start of work on a new mission to Mars in 2018 that will explore the possibility of life on the planet.
Scientists at the University of Leicester today
announced the start of work, in collaboration with industry,
on advanced instruments for ExoMars (Exobiology on Mars).
ExoMars is the first mission to attempt to obtain
samples at a depth of 1-2 metre below the surface of Mars
where they are protected from radiation and oxidants thought
to exist on the surface, and both of which would destroy
heavily degrade complex organic compounds.
The scientists from the university are involved in
five instruments on board the ExoMars mission, including
building the hardware for three of the instruments on board
The ExoMars mission is one of the key missions under
the remit of the newly formed UK Space Agency.
ExoMars is a European-led robotic mission to Mars,
developed by the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA.
It is part of ESA`s Aurora programme for robotic
exploration of the Solar System and its aim is to further
characterise the chemical, geological and possible biological
environment on Mars in preparation for robotic missions and
then human exploration.
Data from the mission will also provide invaluable
input for broader studies of exobiology - the search for life
on other planets.
The mission to Mars also has major Earth-bound
applications with spin-offs in collaboration with industry
bringing environmental benefits as well as technologies that
can be applied in the fields of health and crime detection.
Professor Mark Sims said: "ExoMars is a key mission in
exploration of the planet Mars. It will attempt to gather
samples from a depth 1-2 metre below the surface where they
are protected from radiation and oxidants thought to exist on
the surface - both of which would destroy/heavily degrade
complex organic compounds".
He said the mission gives the University, and the
Space Research Centre(SRC) team in particular, "the
opportunity to explore the chemistry and mineralogy of Mars as
well as look at the possibility of life on Mars in the distant
past, or even today, and at the same time create world-class