NASA’s Mars 2020 rover is to seek signs of past life on Mars, collect and store a set of soil and rock samples that could be returned to Earth in the future. Shown here is an artistic representation of the robot’s SuperCam instrument during operation. Credit: NASA

NASA’s Mars 2020 rover is to seek signs of past life on Mars, collect and store a set of soil and rock samples that could be returned to Earth in the future. Shown here is an artistic representation of the robot’s SuperCam instrument during operation.
Credit: NASA

Flinging spacecraft to Mars is a multi-nation affair – driven to a large degree by the on-going quest to probe the Red Planet for signs of life, either long-gone or still in attendance.

Over the decades, billions of dollars has been spent to pick away at the question: Is there life on Mars? In 2016, that query is arguably more alive than whatever life story the planet is prepared to cough up.

Now en route, for instance, is the European Space Agency’s ExoMars 2016. It arrives at Mars this October, a mission consisting of a methane-sniffing Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) plus an entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, known as Schiaparelli. TGO promises to churn out new data that can help unravel the biological standing of that faraway world.

Artist’s impression depicts Europe’s ExoMars 2016 Trace Gas Orbiter and separation of the entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, named Schiaparelli. Credit: ESA/ATG medialab

Artist’s impression depicts Europe’s ExoMars 2016 Trace Gas Orbiter and separation of the entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, named Schiaparelli.
Credit: ESA/ATG medialab

Europe’s mission this year is a newbie in Mars research. But it’s a precursor of things to come as a robotic existence proof concerning Mars as an extraterrestrial address for life.

Take a look at my new story on Space.com at:

Target Mars: Red Planet in World’s Crosshairs

By Leonard David, Space.com’s Space Insider Columnist

June 28, 2016 12:04pm ET

http://www.space.com/33290-mars-missions-nasa-europe-spacex.html

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