ExoMars

ExoMarsThe European Space Agency’s unmanned Mars Trace Gas Orbiter, nicknamed ExoMars, lifts off via a Russian Proton rocket on a course for Mars. Carrying a small lander named Schiaparelli (named after the Italian astronomer who was instrumental in early mapping of Martian surface features via telescope), ExoMars is scheduled to arrive at the red planet in October 2016, deliver the Schiaparelli lander, and then enter orbit to search for traces and origins of methane in the Martian atmosphere, to determine if the presence of that gas – usually associated with biological activity on Earth – is geochemical in nature, or is derived from another source. Plans then call for ExoMars to join the fleet of artificial satellites relaying communications from current and future Mars-exploring rovers and landers to Earth through the 2020s.