Whether or not life existed on Mars is a question scientists have been wondering since Galileo eyeballed the planet in 1610. NASA has been searching for the existence of life’s building blocks on the red planet for some time now using Mariner 4, Pathfinder, Spirit, and Opportunity, and now the ESA (European Space Agency) is looking to pursue their own life-finding endeavor with the ExoMars astrobiology program.
The program consists of two parts — the Trace Gas Orbiter for atmospheric research, and the Rosalind Franklin rover for surface exploration. The Trace Gas Orbiter was outfitted with the Schiaparelli lander, which was designed to test the feasibility of new hardware landing on Mars, but crashed into its surface. The ExoMy rover, on the other hand, was supposed to launch in July of this year but was canceled because 2020 happened (COVID-19), so the launch date has been moved to August or October of 2022.
The ExoMy rover is an adaptation of the Rosalind Franklin and offers an open source, 3D-printed design that was built around a Raspberry Pi, and a similar triple-bogie suspension found on the ESA rover. It also sports six steerable wheels, providing it a tight turn radius and efficient maneuvering capabilities.
The included software stack allows for remote operation (can be controlled by a tablet, phone, gamepad, etc.) and is currently running ROS (Robotic Operating System), but could eventually include a level of autonomy in future revisions. The ESA has uploaded the plans, BOM, schematics, files, and instructions on GitHub for those who would like to create the ExoMy, which should only cost between $295 and $590 to complete.