The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter mission to Mars and the search for signs of life

UK Centre for Astrobiology seminar

The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter mission to Mars and the search for signs of life

  • Event time: 1:30pm until 3:00pm
  • Event date: 14th March 2017
  • Speaker: Dr. Manish Patel (The Open University)
  • Location: Room 4325B,

Event details

Searching for signs of life beyond the Earth is a one of the primary aims of space exploration.  The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) is a mission to Mars, which seeks to answer this question.

TGO is a joint European-Russian mission to explore the atmosphere of Mars from orbit, and demonstrate Europe’s ability to land a spacecraft on Mars for the first time.  The mission launched in March 2016, with Mars arrival and ‘landing’ on 19th October 2016.  Investigating trace gases in the atmosphere is the primary purpose of the mission – gases such as methane, and ozone.  Methane is a particularly interesting gas, in that its variable presence in the atmosphere of Mars is not expected; on Earth, the majority of the methane in the terrestrial atmosphere is produced by life.  Hence, its presence on Mars opens up a tantalising possibility that this trace gas may be a sign of the presence of (past or present) life on Mars.

The Open University co-leads one of the methane hunting instruments (called NOMAD).  Here, I will present the mission and its background to you, and update you on the latest status of the mission and the results to date from the orbiter and the fate of the lander.


The astrobiology seminar series is run by the UK Centre for Astrobiology based in the School of Physics & Astronomy. Astrobiology is a multi-disciplinary subject and the seminar series actively encourages attendance by undergraduates, postgraduates and academic staff from other departments..

Find out more about UK Centre for Astrobiology seminars.