The joint ESA and Russian ExoMars rover’s top priority is to search the Martian surface for signs of life, past or present, and scientists think they know just the spot where – if life ever existed or exists on Mars – it might be found. Today the ExoMars team announced that the equatorial region named Oxia Planum has been recommended as the primary candidate for the landing site.
“Our preliminary analysis shows that Oxia Planum appears to satisfy the strict engineering constraints while also offering some very interesting opportunities to study, in situ, places where biosignatures might best be preserved,” said Jorge Vago, ESA’s project scientist.
The rover is currently scheduled to launch in 2018 and land on Mars in 2019, but the timetable is still under review, depending on any issues with construction of the rover. While the final landing site won’t be selected by both ESA and Roscosmos until six months before launch, this recommendation will weigh heavily in the decision.