The European Space Agency announced Tuesday its support of a program that will include development of an instrument for testing deep soil samples on Mars.
The testing, to be conducted during a European mission called ExoMars, will be directed by University of California-Santa Barbara research scientist Luann Becker.
"We are very excited about this," said Becker. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
Testing by the two NASA rovers are currently operating on Mars has spurred ESA interest in developing different, new and highly-sensitive instruments to search for present or past life on Mars.
The ExoMars rover will contain a drill that can reach soil samples up to 6 1/2 feet (two meters) under the Martian surface.
Becker said she anticipates the American contribution to the ESA's Molecular Organic Molecule Analyzer development will be funded by NASA.
MOMA will be included as part of the ExoMars mission to Mars in 2011.
Copyright 2005 by United Press International
Explore further: Mars water find boosts quest for extra-terrestrial life