Establishing if life ever existed on Mars is one of the outstanding scientific questions of our time. To address this important goal, the European Space Agency (ESA) has established the ExoMars programme to investigate the Martian environment and to demonstrate new technologies paving the way for a future Mars sample return mission in the 2020's.
The ExoMars programme 2016-2020
Two missions are foreseen within the ExoMars programme: one consisting of the Trace Gas Orbiter plus an Entry, Descent and landing demonstrator Module (EDM), known as Schiaparelli, launched on 14 March 2016, and the other, featuring a rover, with a launch date of 2020. Both missions will be carried out in cooperation with Roscosmos.
The ExoMars programme will demonstrate a number of essential flight and in-situ enabling technologies that are necessary for future exploration missions, such as an international Mars Sample Return mission. These include:
At the same time a number of important scientific investigations will be carried out, for example:
The 2016 mission is composed of the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) and an Entry, descent and landing Demonstrator Module (EDM), known as Schiaparelli. TGO carries scientific instruments to detect and study atmospheric trace gases, such as methane. Schiaparelli contains sensors to evaluate the lander’s performance as it descends, and additional sensors to study the environment at the landing site.
The 2020 mission includes a rover that will carry a drill and a suite of instruments dedicated to exobiology and geochemistry research.
Roscosmos will provide a Proton launcher for both missions.