Searching for Signs of Life on Mars

  • Released Thursday, May 24, 2018
View full credits

One of the biggest questions in planetary science is whether life ever arose on Mars, and NASA and the European Space Agency are sending a cutting-edge instrument to the red planet to find out. The Mars Organic Molecule Analyzer, or MOMA, is a sophisticated suite of technologies that squeezes a lab full of chemistry equipment into a package the size of a toaster. MOMA will travel to Mars aboard ESA's Rosalind Franklin rover (formerly ExoMars), where it will search for evidence of past or present life.

MOMA will not only search for organic molecules, which make up all life on Earth, it will also analyze their structure using its linear ion trap – the first use of this technology on Mars. Doing so will help scientists to determine whether the molecules could be of biological origin, a significant leap forward in the search for life beyond Earth.

MOMA's mass spectrometer subsystem and main electronics were built at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The pulsed UV laser and high-temperature ovens were developed in Germany, and the gas chromatograph in France. The Rosalind Franklin rover is a component of ExoMars, the primary Mars exploration program of the European Space Agency.

Learn more at or download animations of MOMA.

A model of the MOMA mass spectrometer, with the Rosalind Franklin rover in the background.

A model of the MOMA mass spectrometer, with the Rosalind Franklin rover in the background.

For More Information


Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

Release date

This page was originally published on Thursday, May 24, 2018.
This page was last updated on Wednesday, May 3, 2023 at 1:46 PM EDT.


This visualization is related to the following missions:


This visualization can be found in the following series: