A new Mars probe is about to take off on a mission to hunt down chemical signs of life in the Red Planet’s atmosphere. On March 14, ExoMars is scheduled to depart from Kazakhstan for a seven-month journey to Mars, where it will spend several years orbiting the planet making an inventory of all gases including methane, a possible by-product of life.
Along with an orbiter, ExoMars will deliver a lander named Schiaparelli, which will test entry, descent and landing techniques for a rover planned to launch in 2018. The orbiter will act as a telecommunications relay for both this lander and the future rover. Both missions are joint projects of the European and Russian space agencies.