Vanguard – a proposed European astrobiology experiment on Mars
We propose a new type of robotic mission for the exploration of Mars. This mission is called Vanguard and represents the fruits of a collaboration that is both international and multi-disciplinary. Vanguard is designed for sub-surface penetration and investigation using remote instruments and unlike previous robotic architectures it offers the opportunity for multiple subsurface site analysis using three moles. The moles increase the probability that a subsurface signature of life can be found and by accomplishing subsurface analysis across a transect, the statistical rigour of Martian scientific exploration would be improved. There is no provision for returning samples to the surface for analysis by a gas-chromatograph/mass-spectrometer (GCMS) – this minimizes the complexity invoked by sophisticated robotic overheads. The primary scientific instruments to be deployed are the Raman spectrometer, infrared spectrometer and laser-induced breakdown spectroscope – the Raman spectrometer in particular is discussed. We concentrate primarily on the scientific rationale for the Vanguard mission proposal. The Vanguard mission proposal represents a logical opportunity for extending European robotic missions to Mars.