- The ExoMars spacecraft launched into space Monday
- The European and Russian space agencies are looking for evidence of methane, other atmospheric gases on Mars
The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter
launched from Kazakhstan. Its mission is to seek evidence of methane and other atmospheric gases that could mean there's active biological life on Mars. The flight will take about seven months to reach the red planet.
During the joint mission
by the European and Russian space agencies, the probe will circle Mars and measure tiny amounts of gases, such as methane -- a natural gas that is produced in great quantities on Earth. Scientists say the gases may be the waste of microbial beings on Mars.
Other gases that will be measured include water vapour, nitrogen oxides, acetylene.
The methane could signal there's life on the planet.
"However, other purely geological processes, such as the oxidation of certain minerals, also release methane," the European Space Agency
said on its website.
The second phase of the mission -- set to launch in 2018 -- will send an ExoMars rover to the planet.