Mission to Mars one step closer to possible landing site called | Science | news

Mission to Mars one step closer to possible landing site called | Science | news

The team behind the imminent mission has recommended a landing pad on the red planet called Oxia Planum, which a billion years ago is believed to be a huge pool of water. Teams from the European Space Agency (ESA) and Russia's Roscosmos will confirm the location in mid-2019 ahead of the much anticipated start to the following year. Oxia Planum is one of two sites researchers have thought about, with Mawrth Vallis – one valley on Mars – revealing itself as another.

On the mission, an ESA Roscosmos ExoMars rover will reach the selected location to take samples for ground-breaking studies.

Both sites are rich in evidence of the watery past of Mars and lie north of the planet's equator.

ESA's ExoMars 2020 project scientist, Jorge Vago, said, "ExoMars is looking for biosignatures.

"While both sites offered valuable scientific opportunities for exploring ancient aquatic environments populated by microorganisms, Oxia Planum received the majority of the votes.

"An impressive amount of work has been invested in characterizing the sites proposed to prove that they are in line with the scientific requirements of the ExoMars mission."

He added, "Mawrth Vallis is a scientifically interesting site identified from orbit."

The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter was already looking for signs of Mars biological activity.

The researchers recently met at the British National Space Center in Leicester for a two-day summit to discuss the two sites.

According to experts, Oxia Planum was a better option as it was located on a former body of water that was spewed into by numerous streams, creating layers of clay rich minerals.

The mission is scheduled to run between July 25 and August 13, 2020, with the main goal of finding out if there was any life on Mars.

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