The Next Curiosity

ExoMars will arrive to Mars in 2018.

The ESA’s next big mission to Mars is almost a go, and scientists are gearing up to make sure the future rover makes it to the red planet’s surface without a hitch.

Scientists practiced moving a half-scale model of the ExoMars rover off its lander at the ESA’s Mars Yard in France, which mimics the Martian surface. The commands themselves were executed from the Netherlands, where scientists were only given information collected from the rover’s cameras and sensors. They were successful four out of five attempts, not bad for a first go.

ExoMars is happening in two phases: phase one will begin next year, with the launch of the ExoMars orbiter, which will send back information about Mars’ atmosphere. It will also carry an aerodynamically designed capsule that will study the landing site’s environment. Then in 2018, ExoMars will send a rover to the surface, sporting a drill that will allow it to collect subsurface samples.