The space mission ExoMars 2016 departed as planned on March 14th, from Baikonur, Kazakhstan. It embarked a satellite and a landing unit for a 7 month journey to Mars. A preview of the 2018 ExoMars mission.
The ExoMars program is the first time Europe and Russia will try to land on Mars.
Launched by a russian Proton rocket, ExoMars 2016 will therefore be a trial flight. The landing module Schiaparelli will test the two space agencies’ ability to pull a controlled re-entry, descent and landing trajectory off. Once landed, this fixed demonstrator will only last 4 days. But the french laboratory Laboratoire ATmosphères Milieux, Observations Spatiales (LATMOS) will take advantage of this short time to measure, with its MicroARES instrument, Mars’ surface electric field for the first time.
Schiaparelli will be dropped from the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) 3 days before its arrival in orbit around the red planet. With the instrument ACS, also from the LATMOS, the observation satellite will investigate the martian atmosphere. Researchers are particularly intrigued by the presence of methane particles, which often reflect bacteria activity on Earth.
TGO will also serve as a relay for future space missions’ telecommunications, including ExoMars 2018. Which is kind of Russia’s and Europe’s Curiosity: a rover that will look for hints about past or present life on Mars. The LATMOS and the Institut d’Astrophysique Spatiale (IAS) take part each in one of the 9 experiments aboard the scientific platform.
But ExoMars 2018 will only be launched if ExoMars 2016 is successful. The european and russian spatial agencies (ESA and RosCosmos) will know in October 2016.
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