The first ExoMars mission arrived at the Red Planet in October and now the second mission has been confirmed to complete its construction for a 2020 launch. ESA and Thales Alenia Space signed a contract today [Dec 16, 2016] that secures the completion of the European elements of the next mission.
The main objective of the ExoMars programme is to address one of the most outstanding scientific questions of our time: is there, or has there ever been, life on Mars?
The Trace Gas Orbiter will soon be exploring this question from orbit: it will take a detailed inventory of trace gases, such as methane, that might be linked to biological or geological processes. The first test of the orbiter’s science instruments was recently completed. It will also act as a communications relay for various craft – in particular for 2020′s rover and surface platform.
ESA’s rover will be the first capable of drilling 2 m into Mars, where ancient biomarkers may still be preserved from the harsh radiation environment on the surface. The Russian platform will carry instruments focused on the local atmosphere and surroundings.
ExoMars is a joint endeavour between ESA and Roscosmos, with important contribution from NASA. [More at link]