Anyone interested in the scientific exploration of Mars and the search for life on the Red Planet will want to read a special issue of the journal Astrobiology. This collection of papers includes one dedicated to the objectives of ESA’s rover mission on ExoMars 2020 and in-depth summaries of the nine scientific instruments carried by the roving vehicle.
Less than three years from now, one of ESA’s most ambitious scientific endeavours will blast off and head for the planet Mars. If all goes according to plan, the European-built rover and a Russian surface platform will be delivered safely onto the planet’s orange, dusty plains. (…)
The ExoMars rover’s primary task will be to search for evidence that life may have once existed on the Red Planet. The rover will be equipped with a drill that is designed to collect material from inside rocky outcrops and at depths of up to two metres beneath the surface. (…)
This subsurface sampling capability will provide the best opportunity yet to discover the chemical signatures of Martian life – past or present. Since the thin Martian atmosphere offers little protection from radiation at the surface, samples of material retrieved from underground are more likely to include recognisable biomarkers.
The rover is expected to travel several kilometres during its seven month mission.
“Up to now there was no published reference about the mission of the ExoMars rover in the scientific literature,” said Jorge Vago, ESA’s Project Scientist for ExoMars and the Guest Editor for the special issue… [More at links]