Brussels-Are we truly alone in this universe?

The Red Planet may only be a drop in our immense cosmos, but Mars has always been a key place of curiosity when it has come to alien life. Now a high-tech camera could solve the age-old question: is there - or has there ever been - life on Mars?

In 2021, the European Space Agency’s (ESA) ExoMars rover is due to land on the planet. It will be Europe’s first planetary rover and is scheduled to launch in July 2020. But an important step in its creation was taken this week.

Airbus has been fitting the machine’s eyes in Stevenage, UK. Well, not literally its eyes. But the “scientific cameras” have now been installed, which will help the mission determine whether there is any capacity for life on the Martian surface.

The Panoramic Camera (PanCam) will be the only UK-made instrument on the rover, according to Airbus. A team from University College London (UCL) produced the core design of the PanCam, which will sit on the rover’s mast and take 3D images.

“PanCam is surprisingly simple,” Mary Carter, Pan-Cam project manager at UCL, said. “However, this isn’t just a standard off the shelf camera, from the very beginning it has been optimised for the harsh Martian environment, and designed to be much more reliable than commercial electronics,” she added.

It consists of three cameras. Two wide angle devices will take panoramic images, and a filter wheel will enable them to image in 12 different wavelengths.