About the project
What is ExoMars?
One of the main aims of the European Space Agency’s (ESA) interplanetary spacecraft ExoMars 2020 is to attempt to answer the question of whether there was ever life on Mars. The collaborating Russian space agency Roscosmos will provide the Proton-M launcher. It will bring a landing platform "Kazachok" with a European rover "Rosalind Franklin" to the surface of the planet, into the Oxia Planum region.
ExoMars will be the first mission to combine the ability to move across the surface of Mars and to analyse the Red Planet at depth.
The robotic rover will carry a drilling set and a suite of scientific instruments designed for biological and geochemical research, while the instruments on board the landing platform will be dedicated to the investigation of its nearest environment. The launch of the ExoMars 2020 mission is planned for July 2020, with an anticipated landing on Mars in April 2021.
Read more about the risks of landing on Mars (ESA web pages).
Is there lightning on Mars?
One of the scientific systems carried on board the landing platform is the ’Martian ground electromagnetic tool’. The Czech Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Atmospheric Physics within its Department of Space Physics is preparing a wave analyser module for this system. The device will analyse fluctuations of the electromagnetic field measured in the range of audible frequencies. Using these measurements, we would like to find the answers to as yet unresolved questions: Are there electric discharges in the Martian dust clouds and dust devils? Can electromagnetic waves penetrate from outer space to the surface of the planet?
Picture of a dust devil on Mars obtained by a camera on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The view covers an area of about 644 m across. The size of the shadow shows that the dust cloud reaches an altitude of over 800 m. It is approximately 30 m in diameter. Based on computer simulations and on an analogy with terrestrial volcanic lightning it is thought that hypothetical electric discharges might exist in similar formations. However, the existence of discharges on Mars has not as yet been confirmed. If successful, the European ExoMars mission would be the first to do so.
Credit NASA / JPL-Caltech / University of Arizona