Tag: roscosmos

Joint Europe-Russian Probe launched for Mars

Joint Europe-Russian Probe launched for Mars


A joint European-Russian mission aiming to search for traces of life on Mars left Earth’s orbit Monday at the start of a seven-month unmanned journey to the Red Planet.

The Proton rocket carrying the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) to examine Mars’ atmosphere and a descent module that will conduct a test landing on its surface had been launched from the Russian-operated Baikonur cosmodrome in the Kazakh steppe at 0931 GMT on 14th March 2016.

The ExoMars 2016 mission, a collaboration between the ESA and its Russian equivalent Roscosmos, is the first part of a two-phase exploration aiming to answer questions about the existence of life on Earth’s neighbour.

The TGO will examine methane around Mars while the lander, Schiaparelli, will detach and descend to the surface of the fourth planet from the Sun.

The landing of the module on Mars is designed as a trial run ahead of the planned second stage of the mission in 2018 that will see the first European rover land on the surface to drill for signs of life, although problems with financing mean it could be delayed.

One key goal of the TGO is to analyse methane, a gas which on Earth is created in large part by living microbes, and traces of which were observed by previous Mars missions.

“TGO will be like a big nose in space,” said Jorge Vago, ExoMars project scientist.

Methane, ESA said, is normally destroyed by ultraviolet radiation within a few hundred years, which implied that in Mars’ case “it must still be produced today”.

TGO will analyse Mars’ methane in more detail than any previous mission, said ESA, in order to try to determine its likely origin.

One component of TGO, a neutron detector called FREND, can help provide improved mapping of potential water resources on Mars, amid growing evidence the planet once had as much if not more water than Earth.

A better insight into water on Mars could aid scientists’ understanding of how the Earth might cope in conditions of increased drought.

Schiaparelli, in turn, will spend several days measuring climatic conditions including seasonal dust storms on the Red Planet while serving as a test lander ahead of the rover’s anticipated arrival. The module takes its name from 19th century Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli whose discovery of “canals” on Mars caused people to believe, for a while, that there was intelligent life on our neighbouring planet.

The ExoMars spacecraft was built and designed by Franco-Italian contractor Thales Alenia Space.

For More Updates on ExoMars Updates head to: ESA ExoMars Update site