New mission searches for life on Mars The Proton-M rocket booster blasts off at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Monday, March 14, 2016. The Russian rocket carries an orbiter for measuring atmospheric gases of Mars and a Mars lander of the 'ExoMars 2016' mission. (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky)
New mission searches for life on Mars
Lexile

Europe and Russia have launched a joint mission to explore the atmosphere of Mars and hunt for signs of life on the red planet.
 
The unmanned ExoMars probe is a collaboration between the European Space Agency and Roscosmos. It took off March 14 aboard a Russian rocket. It is expected to reach Mars in October.
 
The probe's Trace Gas Orbiter will analyze methane and other gases in the Martian atmosphere. It wants to determine where they are coming from, said Paolo Ferri, ESA's head of mission operations.
 
Methane is created by biological or geological activity. It breaks down within a relatively short period of time once it reaches the atmosphere.
 
"It cannot be older than 400 years. That means there has been either biological or geological activity in this timeframe," said Ferri. "Four hundred years is nothing. If there is methane, it means there is basically a process going on now."
 
The prospect of finding life on Mars, even microscopic organisms, has excited scientists for some time. So far, none has been discovered.
 
"The fact that they've not found life doesn't mean certainly that there's no life there," said Ferri. He noted that much of the planet's vast surface hasn't been closely examined.
 
That task will fall to a rover that ESA plans to send to Mars in 2018. Until then, the orbiter will have time to find a good landing spot and conduct a test run using a trial lander called Schiaparelli. The trial lander is on board the probe.
 
If life is discovered, it actually raises questions about whether future manned missions to the planet should be attempted, said Mark McCaughrean. He is senior science adviser at ESA.
 
"Weirdly, if we find life on Mars, it actually really begs the question if we should go at all with human beings because of that idea of planetary protection," he said at ESA mission control in Darmstadt, Germany. "We would take with us bugs. And if now those bugs meet Martian bugs, that could be a disaster."
 
Landing a spacecraft on Mars is notoriously difficult. Several attempts have failed, including ESA's Beagle 2 probe that was part of the Mars Express mission in 2003. Beagle 2 disappeared during the landing process, a setback the agency is keen to avoid this time, hence the decision to separate the orbiter mission from the actual landing attempt.
 
"It was quite clear that putting both things in one mission drove up the complexity," said Ferri.
 
ExoMars, which cost the European Space Agency alone $1.44 billion, is the first interplanetary mission jointly undertaken by ESA and Roscosmos.
 
The orbiter also has a NASA-built radio on board. The radio will help relay signals from other Mars probes.

Filed Under:  
Assigned 43 times
CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why did Paolo Ferri say “Four hundred years is nothing?”
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (14)
  • carsonk-2-bar
    3/18/2016 - 10:39 a.m.

    Paolo Ferri said 400 years is nothing because if there is methane then there's a process going on. "If there is methane, it means there is basically a process going on now." This article was interesting because going to Mars would be out of this world. This article surprised me of the idea of having humans live there if the task is successful.

  • michaelm1-ver
    3/18/2016 - 02:34 p.m.

    This seems like a good plan to find life.

  • nickh-1-nic
    3/21/2016 - 12:54 p.m.

    Paolo Ferri said 400 years is nothing because if there is methane then there is something happening right now. I believe the United States should join this mission too. If we found life on mars we could be the most powerful country ever.

  • collinf-2-bar
    3/21/2016 - 07:39 p.m.

    Ferri said that "four hundred years is nothing" because four hundred years is nothing compared to the billions of years Earth had been around.

    I found this article interesting because I like space and am interested in a human mission to mars.

  • Steve0620-yyca
    3/21/2016 - 09:12 p.m.

    I think that it is cool that people have sent another ship into space to see if it can find life on Mars. Europe and Russia joined together for this mission. The probe is called the ExoMars and it was launched in March 14th on a Russian Rocket. It is expected to land on Mars sometime in October. The probe has a Trace Gas Orbiter will examine gases like Methane in the Martian atmosphere. Scientists haven't found life yet, but it doesn't mean that there isn't any. I hope that there won't be an accident like the one that happened to the other ship when it disappeared. I think that Paolo Ferri said that four hundred years is nothing because the methane couldn't be older than four hundred years. There seems to have been some activity that was going on and it means that there is a process. A process can take a very long time.

  • sebastianr-6-bar
    3/22/2016 - 10:10 p.m.

    Paola Ferri said, "Four hundred is nothing." because 400 hundred years is nowhere even near the amount of time the Earth has been around, so he means the methane has to be fresh. I think this is interesting that people are still looking for life on mars because there has already been mission to mars and nothing has been found so I don't know what could possibly have changed on the planet since the last time we sent a space craft there.

  • alexanderc-6-bar
    3/25/2016 - 02:53 p.m.

    Paolo Ferri said 400 years is nothing because if there is methane then there's a process going on. "If there is methane, it means there is basically a process going on now." This article was interesting because going to Mars would be out of this world. This article surprised me of the idea of having humans live there if the task is successful.

  • izaacb-edg
    6/08/2016 - 02:09 p.m.

    He only said that because it is showing that the methane process is current and there is no need to try to date it.

  • martham-edg
    6/08/2016 - 02:20 p.m.

    OK ,so hearing about these things that like are related to mars interest me a lot!Like when I heard about Mars having water!THAT! IS! COOL!Whoa, it be crazy to have people actually able to live there!

  • hannaha-edg
    6/08/2016 - 02:20 p.m.

    because theyre been more than billions of years

Take the Quiz Leave a comment
ADVERTISEMENT