From Kazakhstan to Mars, it’s just a seven-month long flight. The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, a spacecraft created to detect the atmospheric gases of Mars, was launched early yesterday morning.
Earthlings, scientists in particular, are intrigued by the presence of traces of methane gas in the Martian atmosphere, because the gas is produced in abundance by life on earth. The NASA Curiosity rover in 2014 recorded spikes in methane levels on the surface of Mars, indicating localized sources, so it could be a sign that there’s life on the red planet, the methane being emitted from the natural waste products of Martian life forms.
Last September, hopes of finding life on Mars were fueled when NASA researchers discovered flowing water on the planet in the form of seasonal damp patches.
The latest mission probe by Russian and European space agencies will circle Mars and measure the amount of gases like methane, nitrogen oxide and acetylene.
To find out for certain however, we’ll have to wait till 2018 when the second part of the mission gets underway. This will entail sending an ExoMars rover, which will explore the planet in detail and return with more concrete evidence.