Where did life come from? Are we alone in the universe? These two closely related questions have reached beyond the realm of philosophy and are now being subjected to scientific investigation in more precise terms. Attempting to answer them is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle in which each piece lies at the end of a treasure hunt. This summer, three space missions are set to depart for Mars in search of new clues to solve this rebus.Thanks to the sum of talents of the scientists, engineers and technicians working in our research laboratories, agencies and private firms, Europe and France are pivotal players in this fantastic quest to discover our origins and, in the final analysis, reveal the reasons behind our existence.