Before humans can set foot on Mars, we need to know as much as possible about the Red Planet. Has life ever existed there? Does Mars still harbour life and, if so, under which form? What are the dangers to future human explorers? How easy is it to live and work on Mars?
ESA's Aurora programme is planning to send robots to find out more. ExoMars, due for launch in 2018, is the first of the Aurora missions. It includes an orbiter and a lander that will deliver a large rover to the surface of Mars.
The solar powered rover will spend many months on Mars and travel many kilometres over the rocky landscape. Signals between the Earth and the rover will be relayed by the ExoMars orbiter.
The ExoMars rover will be able to drill up to 2 metres into the surface, take and analyse rock samples, search for water and study the local weather. Its main objective will be to search for signs of life, past or present.