TECH
08/05/2014 10:22 BST | Updated 08/05/2014 10:59 BST

'Explore Mars' Non-Profit Wants To Bomb Red Planet, To Find Life

Let's bomb Mars.

That's the message of a non-profit group which wants to extend the search for life on the Red Planet to areas deep beneath the surface.

Nasa currently has two functional robots on the Martian surface looking for signs of life, and there are at least two more missions planed for this decade.

But 'Explore Mars' want to speed up this process by literally pounding the planet with projectiles, opening up new areas that its probes could explore.

The idea is for the 'bunker buster' missiles to impact on the surface, burrow down several meters and broadcast from the rear of the missile still above the ground.

Those making the proposal say that current missions planned to explore Mars are unable to drill deep enough to find evidence of life. Nasa's InSight lander (set for 2016) has a mole to drill into the Martian rock, but will not be looking for life. The next European Space Agency probe, the ExoMars rover, will launch in 2018 but will only be able to drill down two metres.

By comparison, Explore Mars want to raise funds for something more impressive - the 'Exolance' - which would comprise many small lightweight mortars with scientific instruments and radio transmitters.

The team says on its website:

"We intend to build EXOLANCE and test it at a test range in the Mojave Desert in 2014. Many areas of the Mojave Desert feature Mars-like characteristics. We will be able to test both the delivery system (from an aircraft) as well as the ground penetrating arrows. These tests will verify the average depth of penetration and the life detection experiment within the arrows.

Once the concept is sufficiently tested and we have proven the viability of the mission concept, we will urge NASA, other space agencies, and potential commercial providers to carry EXOLANCE on one or more future Mars missions."

It's not without precedent - albeit not all of it positive. The NASA Deep Space 2 mission in 1999 used the same principle to try and smash into the Martian surface, but its two craft failed to make contact with Earth. Instead the space agency has since used more elaborate landing mechanisms to make sure its craft arrive safely.

"It will be tough getting the technology on board a spacecraft headed to Mars," Alan Smith at University College London, who is working on a similar mission to Jupiter's icy ocean moon Europa, told New Scientist.

"Still, it demonstrates that penetrators are being seen more and more as credible platforms for planetary exploration."

Check out the full story at New Scientist.