ESA’s ExoMars Proton-Rocket Mission Blasts Off –“To See if Mars is Alive”





Europe and Russia have successfully launched an unmanned spacecraft in a joint mission to probe for signs of life on Mars and bring a manned mission a step closer to flying to the Red Planet. The spacecraft, scheduled to arrive at Mars in October 2016, carries an atmospheric probe that is to study trace gases such as methane, a chemical that on Earth is strongly tied to life, that previous NASA missions have detected in the planet's atmosphere.

The craft, part of the ExoMars program, blasted off from the Baikonur spaceport in Kazakhstan on board a Proton rocket, starting its seven-month journey of 496 million kilometers.





"TGO will be like a big nose in space," ExoMars project scientist Jorge Vago said referring to the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO). The ESA hsays the mission is to determine "whether Mars is 'alive'". The TGO will image the Red Planet and analyse its atmosphere, splitting off from the Schiaparelli lander days before landing.




Three days before reaching the atmosphere of Mars, Schiaparelli will be ejected from the Orbiter towards the Red Planet. Schiaparelli will then coast towards its destination, enter the Martian atmosphere at 21 000 km/h, decelerate using aerobraking and a parachute, and then brake with the aid of a thruster system before landing on the surface of the planet.

From its coasting to Mars until its landing, Schiaparelli will communicate with the Orbiter. Once on the surface, the communications of Schiaparelli will be supported from Mars Express and from a NASA Relay Orbiter. The ExoMars Orbiter will be inserted into an elliptical orbit around Mars and then sweep through the atmosphere to finally settle into a circular, approximately 400-km altitude orbit ready to conduct its scientific mission.

The Daily Galaxy via ESA

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