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Scientists invited to tool up Mars mission 'ExoMars'

Computer graphics generated image of the ExoMars rover Phase B1 concept. ESA Photo.

WASHINGTON (BNS): ESA and NASA's joint Mars mission ‘ExoMars’ is scheduled to launch in 2016. The mission will focus on the rarest constituents of the martian atmosphere, including the mysterious methane that could signal life on Mars.

According to the ESA press release, the space agencies are inviting scientists from across the globe to make instruments for their project. The first spacecraft is the Trace Gas Orbiter, which ESA will build and NASA will launch.

“We are open to all instrumental proposals so long as they help us achieve our scientific objectives,” says Jorge Vago, ESA ExoMars Project Scientist. A Joint Instrument Definition Team has identified a model payload based on current technology, but turning that blueprint into reality is now the job of the scientific community.

The priority for this mission is to map trace gases in the atmosphere of Mars, distinguishing individual chemical species down to concentrations of just a few parts per billion. Of these gases, one in particular attracts special attention: methane, the release said.

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