ExoMars 2016 is on its way to the Red Planet

Europe and Russia have successfully launched an spacecraft in a joint mission to probe for signs of life on Mars and bring a manned mission a step closer to flying to the Red Planet. The spacecraft, scheduled to arrive at Mars in October 2016, carries an atmospheric probe that is to study trace gases such as methane, a chemical that on Earth is strongly tied to life, that previous NASA missions have detected in the planet's atmosphere.

This is the first of two ExoMars missions, together costing £924 million and with a seven-month journey of 496 million kilometers, designed to uncover signs of past or present life on the Red Planet.