Space scientists in Britain have won more than 4.2 million U. S. dollars of government funding to help support exploration of life on Mars.
The funding from the official UK Space Agency will also help support studies into experiments that could be built and flown to the International Space Station (ISS), which could potentially support future human exploration of space.
The UK Space Agency's Aurora Science program is exploiting data from robotic exploration, including major investment in European Space Agency's ExoMars mission.
A spokesman for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, said British research will target questions of past and present life on Mars, investigating the presence of water and the geochemical environment, as well as atmospheric trace gases and their sources.
Science Minister Jo Johnson said: "This government funding will play a vital role in ensuring UK academics can continue to study the secrets of our solar system, from the polar regions of the Moon to the potential of life on Mars."
The funding has gone to 17 academics and individual scientists working at UK research organisations. In addition funding has been awarded to the UK microgravity and space environments community in academia and industry.
Libby Jackson, Human Spaceflight and Microgravity Program Manager at the UK Space Agency, said: "Microgravity science in the UK has grown rapidly since we joined the ISS program in 2012. The studies undertaken will address how high quality science can be implemented within the constraints of the ISS and provide an accurate cost for the full flight experiment."