BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan, March 14 (UPI) -- The first ExoMars launch was successful. A rocket carrying the Trace Gas Orbiter blasted off from Kazakhstan on Monday at 10:31 p.m. CET.
The ExoMars mission is a collaborative effort by the European Space Agency and the Russian Federal Space Agency. The Trace Gas Orbiter will analyze and map gas source and concentration in the Martian atmosphere and on the Red Planet's surface.
ESA confirmed the probe separated from the rocket's final stage at 21:15 p.m. CET. The probe is now en route to Mars. Its journey will take roughly seven months, with the probe expected to enter orbit around Mars in October 2016.
Researchers hope the Trace Gas Orbiter can collect data relevant to the search for life -- or evidence of past life -- on Mars. Methane, because it is produced by either living organisms or geologic activity, is of particular interest.