Date Friday 12th October Time 2.15pm 3.15pm
Prof Andrew Coates
“Looking for Life on Mars with the ExoMars 2020 rover”
Mars is one of our closest targets in the search for life beyond Earth, with other possibilities being Europa at Jupiter and Enceladus and Saturn. Mars has changed significantly in the 4.6 billion years since its formation. About 3.8 billion years ago, Mars had significant volcanism, a magnetic field, water on the surface and a thick atmosphere – at a time when life was starting on its closest planetary neighbour, the Earth. Mars now is cold and dry, and has a thin carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere, with a harsh surface environment unprotected by a global magnetic field. Using results from recent Mars missions, including NASA’s current Curiosity rover, we will look at the difference between Mars 3.8 billion years ago and now, and the prospects for life there. We discuss current and future missions to Mars, and in particular ESA’s ExoMars 2020 rover. This will drill up to 2m under the harsh Martian surface for the first time, to search for signs of past or even present life.