The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter has begun it’s seven-month journey to Mars, where it will seek evidence of methane and other atmospheric gases that could mean there’s active biological life on Mars.
ExoMars is the first phase of an historic joint European-Russian mission that scientists believe has the potential to find ‘very strong evidence’ of alien life when it arrives at Mars on October 19.
The ExoMars program consists of two launches to the Red Planet: today’s and one in 2018.
The rocket that was lunched today carries the Trace Gas Orbiter and the Schiaparelli EDM Lander. Once in orbit around Mars, the Trace Gas Orbiter will measure the types of gases in the atmosphere.
The Schiaparelli lander will descend to the Martian surface and test a soft landing. It is seen as a test run for a rover that will launch in 2018. The rover is designed to explore the planet and dig up dirt samples to look for signs of biology. If Schiapearelli can land intact, the rover that follows it likely will too.