The ExoMars 2016 spacecraft will build on past missions to Mars. From the pioneering Viking missions onwards, our knowledge of Mars has been transformed and we now have an extraordinarily detailed picture of the planet. There are dust storms, polar ice caps and four distinct seasons. Mars has the largest volcanic mountain in our solar system and a canyon stretching over 5000 kilometres.
This film covers what we have learnt in particular from Europe’s Mars Express mission. Since its arrival in 2003, it has found evidence of water on Mars, discovered methane in the planet’s atmosphere, mapped the structure and composition of the south polar ice cap, discovered auroras and made the closest ever flybys of Phobos, one of Mars’ two moons. Mars Express also helped scientists select the landing site for the NASA Mars Curiosity rover, which arrived in Gale crater in 2012.
ExoMars (Exobiology on Mars) is a large Mars mission to search for biosignatures of Martian life, past or present. It is an astrobiology mission by the European Space Agency (ESA) in collaboration with the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos).
The programme includes several spacecraft elements to be sent to Mars on two launches. The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) and an EDM stationary lander called ‘Schiaparelli’ were launched on 14 March 2016. The TGO will deliver the ESA-built stationary lander and then proceed to map the sources of methane on Mars and other gases, and in doing so, help select the landing site for the ExoMars rover to be launched in 2018 on a Russian heavy lift Proton launch vehicle.