The 2018 ExoMars mission will be launched by a Proton rocket on a nine-month journey to Mars. A Russian descent module will carry a Russian surface platform and ESA’s ExoMars rover through the atmosphere.
After landing, the rover, which is about the size of a golf buggy, will leave the platform to travel several kilometres across the martian surface to search for signs of life.
The rover is fitted with a drill, a first in Mars exploration, and will extract samples from various depths, down to a maximum of two metres.
Underground samples are more likely to contain well-preserved organic material, particularly from the early history of the planet since the very thin atmosphere of Mars today offers little protection from space radiation and photochemistry at the surface.
Once collected, each sample will be delivered to a number of instruments in the rover’s analytical laboratory, which will determine its mineralogy and chemistry.
ESA’s ExoMars rover will be the first mission to combine the capability to move across the surface and to study Mars at depth.