ExoMars Rover

The European Space Agency and NASA have set up the ExoMars Programme to investigate the Martian environment. One of its aims is to look for exobiology (signs of past and present life). The ExoMars Rover is one of two autonomous rovers designed to be landed on the planet in 2018, and will be equipped specifically for that purpose including PanCam, a stereoscopic panoramic imaging system designed by the UK’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory.

A lanky-necked Rover with two beady eyes
Descends from a sky-crane through dust-laden skies.
From the Earth come “Hurrahs!”
As it settles on Mars,
And then comes the signal: “Go forth , analyse!”

Powered by sunlight and bristling with gear,
The Rover will map the terrain far and near
Using PanCam and software,
To sort out a spot where
Some exobiology might just appear.

Then Earthlings will sort out which target looks right,
And the Rover will plan out its route to the site.
It’s got six wheels to drive it,
And to help it survive, it
Has heaters to make sure it’s warm overnight.

There’s a drill to get samples from two metres deep,
With a built-in spectrometer, giving a peep
At the rock in the raw,
So its studied before
It’s degraded. Such instruments do not come cheap!

The samples get crushed and inspected, and then
The Rover will do it again and again.
But, I ask with respect,
Can it hope to detect
Those rascally Martians, the Little Green Men?

[Artist’s impression from European Space Agency]
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