ExoMars rover, the European Space Agency (ESA) and Russian Roscosmos’ joint venture to the Red Planet that will set out in 2020, will likely land on Mars’ equator called Oxia Planum, the media reported. The Oxia Planum had housed a massive pool of water in the prehistoric era. Scientists will look for “biosignatures”, the Sputnik news agency reported on Sunday.
The rover will drill into the surface of the Red Planet to search for evidence of ancient life after it lands there in 2021. The teams were earlier expected to confirm the site in mid-2019, just ahead of the much-anticipated 2020 launch, but it was preponed. ExoMars with a tiny robot on board would be collecting samples for future studies about Mars’ watery past, the report said.
“With ExoMars we are on a quest to find biosignatures,” adding that both of the selected sites provide “valuable scientific opportunities to explore ancient water-rich environments that could have been colonised by microorganisms”, Sputnik quoted Jorge Vago, a project scientist as saying.
Another site which was also considered as a likely landing spot was Mawrth Vallis that literally means “a valley on Mars”. It lies just north of Oxia Planum, the report said. Both the sites are associated with rich evidence of Mars’ ancient water reserves, which if ultimately proved, would directly point to the type of life that possibly might have thrived there. Researchers though went for Oxia Planum as it holds vast scientific potential and is home to layers of clay-rich minerals, left behind after numerous streams drained the site’s large watery mass, Vago said.