David Bowie once sang, ‘is there life on Mars?’. Well on Monday, we’re set to find out, as a heavy-lift Russian rocket shoots off into space from a station in Kazakhstan.
The blast off will signal the first of two missions designed to discover signs of past or present life forms on Mars.
As reported by The Mirror, ExoMars missions, which will cost £924 million, will search for methane on the Red Planet before concluding whether it was likely to have been created by biological or geological processes.
If even the slightest discovery of life is made – even that of life which existed tens of billions of years ago – it will stand as probably the biggest discovery of all time.
However, the excitement does not stop there, as in 2018 a state of the art British-built rover, equipped with a drill which will dig deep into the surface of the planet, will also be sent up to Mars to look for ‘chemical fingerprints’.
The drill will also search for insects and bugs, because if bugs do exist on Mars it’s only possible that they would be found beneath the radioactive surface.
Although many rovers have been sent up to Mars in the past, none of them have ventured there with the necessary equipment intended to find some form of life.
Planetary scientist Dr Peter Grindrod, from Birkbeck, University of London, said:
It’s incredibly exciting. This is a series of missions that’s trying to address one of the fundamental questions in science: is there life anywhere else besides the Earth?
Finding that life exists elsewhere in the solar system would be a huge discovery, so the evidence has to be strong.
The missions are being controlled by both the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Russian Federal Space Agency, Roscosmos.