Scientists have created a laboratory the size of a roaster oven for a Mars rover that will drill beneath the surface of the red planet and look for signs of past or present life.
The small chemistry lab called Mars Organic Molecule Analyzer (MOMA) is a key instrument in ExoMars Rover, a joint mission between the European Space Agency and the Russian space agency Roscosmos, with an important contribution to NASA's MOMA.
Will launch towards Mars in July 2020.  "The ExoMars Rover two-meter drill will provide MOMA with unique samples that may contain complex organic compounds preserved from an ancient era, when life could have started on Mars "said Will Brinckerhoff, project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in the USA. UU
Although the surface of Mars is inhospitable to the forms of life known today, there is evidence that in the distant past, the Martian climate allowed the presence of liquid water. ingredient for life on the surface.
This evidence includes characteristics that resemble dry river beds and mineral deposits that only form in the presence of liquid water.
NASA has sent robots to Mars that have found additional signs of habitability past environments.
Evidence of life
The MOMA instrument will be able to detect a wide variety of organic molecules. Organic molecules contain carbon and hydrogen, and may include oxygen, nitrogen and other elements. To find these molecules on Mars, the MOMA team had to take instruments about the size of a toaster oven to be practical to install on a rover.
Mars explorers face another challenge when they look for evidence of life: pollution. To ensure this, the MOMA team has been very careful to ensure that the instrument is as free as possible from the terrestrial molecules that are life signatures.
The ExoMars rover will be the first to explore the depths of the surface, with a drill capable of taking samples from only two meters.
However, the Martian sediment is an effective shield, and the team hopes to find a greater abundance of organic molecules in samples from below the surface.
MOMA recently completed both ESA and NASA pre-delivery reviews that cleared the way for the flight instrument to be delivered to the mission.
On May 16, the MOMA mbad spectrometer was delivered to Thales Alenia Space in Italy, where it will be integrated into the mobile laboratory drawer badyzer during upcoming mission-level activities this summer.
Following the subsequent top-level rover and spacecraft level integration activities in 2019, the ExoMars Rover is expected to launch to M ars in July 2020 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.