Mars Express has provided a wealth of evidence for the planet’s wetter past, from images of dried out river beds to the discovery of minerals that can only form in the presence of water. With radar, the spacecraft also detected a pond of liquid water buried below layers of ice near the planet’s south pole. Meanwhile, the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter is mapping the distribution of water-ice and water-rich minerals in the uppermost metre of the planet’s surface. Understanding critical resources like water is essential to understand the history of life on other worlds – and for future robotic and human exploration.
ESA has demonstrated expertise in studying Mars from orbit, now we are looking to secure a safe landing, to rove across the surface and to drill underground to search for evidence of life. Our orbiters are already in place to provide data relay services for surface missions. The next logical step is to bring samples back to Earth, to provide access to Mars for scientists globally, and to better prepare for future human exploration of the Red Planet.
This set of infographics highlight’s ESA’s contribution to Mars exploration as we ramp up to the launch of our second ExoMars mission, and look beyond to completing a Mars Sample Return mission.