Mission to Mars

The European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA are inviting scientists from across the world to propose instruments for their joint Mars mission, the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, which ESA will build and NASA will launch.

Scheduled for launch in 2016, the spacecraft will focus on understanding the constituents of the martian atmosphere.

Establishing whether life ever existed, or is still active on Mars today, is one of the outstanding scientific quests of our time.

Both space agencies have issued an ‘Announcement of Opportunity’, inviting scientists to propose instruments to be carried on the mission. Once all proposals are in, they will be evaluated and the winning teams will be tasked with building the actual hardware.

A Joint Instrument Definition Team has identified a model payload based on current technology, but turning that blueprint into reality is now the job of the scientific community. Jorge Vago, ESA ExoMars project scientist, said: ‘We are open to all instrumental proposals so long as they help us achieve our scientific objectives.’

The priority for the mission is to map trace gases in the atmosphere of Mars, distinguishing individual chemical species down to concentrations of just a few parts per billion.