The joint exploration project by the European Space Agency and Russian Federal Space Agency has successfully launched the first part of ExoMars mission early morning Monday.
The seven-month journey, which is comprised of two parts, aims to determine presence of specific elements on Mars such as methane gas and crystal jarosite. The presence of methane gas indicates that life do exist in the Martial planet, while presence of crystal jarosite is indicative of a water source as it only forms in H20.
The launch was held in Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan at around 5:31 a.m (EST). The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO), as it officially called, was blasted off the space via proton rocket.
Although presence of methane gas, or any trace of crystal jarosite is indicative of life on the red planet, scientists also claimed that a discovery of such elements are not conclusive that life do exist on Mars. It is because, for example, methane gas could only be a byproduct of chemical reactions in rocks, according to The Guardian.
Just a few minutes before the rocket carrying the TGO took off, ESA senior scientist Mark McCaughrean said hopes are high for this momentous day in space science. He said this is a monumental event in the history of humankind as it ventured into the Martian planet. “Essentially our spacecraft is a giant nose in the sky. We are going to use it to sniff out the presence of methane on Mars and determine if it is being produced by biological processes,” Jorge Vago, ESA’s project manager for ExoMars was quoted as saying by the Guardian.
The successful launch of the ExoMars is only the first phase of the two-phase project between the European and Russian space agencies, which costs a whooping £924 million. The second part of the mission is slated on October 19 this year according to the Telegraph.