Looking for life on Mars

Talk by Professor Andrew Coates of the Mullard space science laboratory

Friday 16th June


Professor Coates is one of a team of scientists working on a rover mission entitled “Rosalind Franklin” after the eminent English chemist whose work was central to the understanding of the molecular structures of DNA.

First of all he gave us a history of Mars and the research been done to establish if the planet once had water. He presented the evidence clearly and told us that water existed for approximately 3.8 billion years. This time span was thought not to be long enough for life to develop. It took 4.6 billion years for life to develop on Earth.

Mars having lost its dynamism and the volcanoes becoming extinct, it was not long before the planet lost its water.

The rover which should have launched last year, launches in September 2022, has on board a drill, amongst other equipment, which will be able to go to a depth of 2 metres where ancient biomarkers may still be preserved from the harsh radiation environment on the surface.

The samples will be hermetically sealed and stored waiting for a recovery mission which is still being developed.

The rover is part of the international Exo-Mars programme led by the European Space Agency and the Russian Roscosmos State Corporation. Its landing on the planet will use a parachute system and the testing of this system has delayed the launch.

Andrew showed us many images of the project and there were many questions asked. The talk was informative and presented in a way we could all understand.

Marilyn Bentley