The UK Space Agency has launched a competition to name a rover that is going to Mars to search for signs of life.

Due to launch in 2020, the UK-built rover is part of ESA’s ExoMars mission. It will investigate how Mars has evolved and whether there may be conditions for life.

The ExoMars rover will be the first of its kind to travel across the martian surface and drill down to determine if evidence of life is buried underground, protected from the Sun’s radiation that bombards the surface of the ‘Red Planet’.

The rover will collect samples and analyse them with next-generation instruments – a fully fledged automated laboratory on Mars.

The competition to name the rover was unveiled by ESA astronaut Tim Peake at the Farnborough International Airshow today.

“Mars is a fascinating destination, a place where humans will one day work alongside robots to gather new knowledge and search for life in our Solar System,” says Tim. “The ExoMars rover is a vital part of this journey of exploration and we are asking you to become part of this exciting mission and name the rover that will scout the martian surface.”

The rover is due to land on Mars in March 2021 and will use solar panels to generate electrical power, surviving the cold martian nights with novel batteries and heater units.

ExoMars will be the first mission to combine the capability to move across the surface and to study Mars at depth.

Another part of the ExoMars mission, the Trace Gas Orbiter, is already orbiting Mars, looking for atmospheric gases linked to active geological or biological processes.

ESA’s Director of Human and Robotic Exploration David Parker says, “When I was young and dreamed of Mars exploration, this mission would have been science fiction.

“The ExoMars missions are part of Europe’s strategy to develop technology and explore around Earth, the Moon and Mars – to investigate and bring back knowledge and benefits to people on Earth. This competition is bound to inspire many across Europe and bring the Red Planet closer to home.”

For the full terms and conditions and how to enter click here