Officials in charge of Europe's ExoMars rover, part of a joint Mars exploration project with Russia, say they are confident the life-seeking robot will reach the Red Planet's surface despite Russia's record of star-crossed Mars missions.
Russia is in charge of building the rocket-powered landing system for the rover, which is designed to search for signs of past and present life on Mars. The ExoMars rover will also drill up to 6 feet (1.8 meters) beneath the rust-colored Martian soil and look for biological markers encased in the planet's bedrock. There, the markers would be protected from the damaging radiation and chemical processes present at the planet's surface.
The ExoMars program comprises two missions, a Trace Gas Orbiter with a stationary lander set for launch in January 2016, and a 660-pound (300 kilograms) rover scheduled to depart Earth in May 2018. The missions have a collective cost of about 1.2 billion euros ($1.6 billion).