A joint mission was launched on Monday by Russia and Europe that will explore the atmosphere of Mars and hunt for signs of life on the red planet. This is the first phase of a two part launch.
The unmanned probe called the Exo Mars probe launched successfully from a base in Kazakhstan aboard a Russian rocket and is expected to reach Mars in October.The probe is equipped with a Trace Gas Orbiter that will analyze methane and other gasses in the atmosphere to determine where they are coming from. It's also carrying a trial lander called Schiaparelli that will search for a good landing spot for the second phase of the launch which will send a rover to Mars in 2018.
NASA's original tests initially showed no methane in the Martian atmosphere, later data however collected by NASA's Curiosity proved that methane is indeed present and emitted in quick bursts.Methane is created by biological or geological activity and breaks down relatively quickly once it reaches the atmosphere.
Paolo Ferri head of ESA's mission operations was quoted as saying "It cannot be older than 400 years. That means there has either been biological or geological activity in this time frame. Four hundred years is nothing. If there is methane it means there is basically a process going on now."
The fact that they've not found life doesn't mean certainly that there's no life there."
If life is found on Mars it would raise questions as to whether future manned missions to Mars should go forward. The possibilities of contamination would complicate matters and could potentially pose a threat to any lifeforms there.
This is the first interplanetary mission performed jointly by Russia's Roscosmos and the European Space Agency.