International Journal of Astrobiology

Vanguard – a proposed European astrobiology experiment on Mars

A.A. Ellery a1c1, C.S. Cockell a2, H.G.M. Edwards a3, D.L. Dickensheets a4 and C.S. Welch a1
a1 School of Engineering, Kingston University, London, UK e-mail:,
a2 British Antarctic Survey, High Cross, Cambridge, UK e-mail:
a3 Department of Chemical & Forensic Sciences, University of Bradford, Bradford, UK e-mail:
a4 Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana, USA e-mail:


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.

(Received June 20 2002)
(Accepted September 9 2002)

Key Words: astrobiology; Mars; robotic Mars mission; experimental astrobiology.

c1 Corresponding author.