Archive for October, 2016

Shenzhou-11 crew is now onboard the Tiangong-2 space lab for 30 days. Credit: CCTV

Shenzhou-11 crew is now onboard the Tiangong-2 space lab for 30 days.
Credit: CCTV

China space travelers, Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong, are busy at work onboard the Tiangong-2 space lab, starting their routine work and exercise programs.

In-space activities by the crew are being monitored by technicians at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center.

Harvesting lettuce

One early task was to plant lettuce seeds so the twosome can harvest a batch of lettuce before they leave the space lab in a month’s time.

Jing and Chen are living according to Beijing time, working six days a week according to a schedule that researchers have developed to help them healthy.

Shenzhou-11 crew consists of two male astronauts, veteran space traveler, Jing Haipeng (left) and newcomer to space, Chen Dong. Crew photos: ChinaSpaceflight‏.com

Shenzhou-11 crew consists of two male astronauts, veteran space traveler, Jing Haipeng (left) and newcomer to space, Chen Dong.
Crew photos: ChinaSpaceflight‏.com

“We perfected the schedule of working and sleeping. They now work six days and have one day off. This schedule will give them more freedom to adjust their work flexibly,” said Huang Weifen, deputy chief designer of the Manned Spaceship Astronaut System in a CCTV interview.

Spacey silkworms

The Chinese astronauts have also fed silkworms with Jing bringing out the first silkworm, handling it in microgravity.

The six silkworms will help Chinese scientists study the silkworms’ growing process in space, and allow them to compare this with how they grow on Earth.

After tending the silkworms, Jing and Chen began using a specially designed running machine for exercise. Jing was first to utilize the new facility, both making use of belts to stabilize themselves on the running machine.

Life onboard

Also on the technology agenda was carrying out noise and other physical capacity tests onboard the Tiangong-2 space lab.

To view scenes of life onboard the orbiting lab, go to:

http://l3-pv.news.cctvplus.com/2016/1021/8034825_Preview_1477042891963.mp4

 Curiosity Mastcam Right image taken on Sol 1494, October 19, 2016. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS


Curiosity Mastcam Right image taken on Sol 1494, October 19, 2016.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The NASA Curiosity Mars rover is now in Sol 1496.

New imagery shows the rover carrying out drilling duties on Mars.

There is also new news from the Curiosity Mars rover: a follow-up image taken by the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) showed that the Quela dump pile had been moved by the wind again!

Windblown sand and dust

Reports Ken Herkenhoff of the USGS Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona:

“The MAHLI team is concerned that windblown sand and dust might damage or contaminate the camera’s optics, so they decided to open the MAHLI dust cover only for images taken from 25 centimeters or more above the surface.”

Curiosity MAHLI image taken on October 20, 2016, Sol 1495. The Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) is located on the turret at the end of the rover's robotic arm. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity MAHLI image taken on October 20, 2016, Sol 1495. The Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) is located on the turret at the end of the rover’s robotic arm.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

That said, Herkenhoff noes, there are no concerns and a full drill hole was planned at Sebina on Sol 1495, with close-up MAHLI images taken through the dust cover window.

Drill hole imagery

As usual, the other Curiosity cameras will take images of the drill hole after the arm is moved out of the way.

The drill sample will then be processed and transferred to the scoop for inspection by the rover’s Left Mastcam.

“It’s a full plan that again requires significant power, but the tactical team was able to squeeze in a few change- detection images to watch for further changes in the dump pile,” Herkenhoff adds.

 

Artist's impression of Schiaparelli, the ExoMars entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, as it approaches the Martian surface. Credit: ESA/ATG medialab

Artist’s impression of Schiaparelli, the ExoMars entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, as it approaches the Martian surface.
Credit: ESA/ATG medialab

 

 

What occurred during yesterday’s attempted landing of the European Space Agency’s (ESA) ExoMars 2016 Schiaparelli lander is under analysis by experts.

Perhaps offering new insight on the apparent mishap at Mars – NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and the Opportunity rover.

 

Detailed telemetry

The lander was dispatched from the now safely orbiting Mars mothership, ESA’s Trace Gas Orbiter.

Artist’s impression depicts Europe’s ExoMars 2016 Trace Gas Orbiter and separation of the entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, named Schiaparelli. Credit: ESA/ATG medialab

Artist’s impression depicts Europe’s ExoMars 2016 Trace Gas Orbiter and separation of the entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, named Schiaparelli.
Credit: ESA/ATG medialab

But something happened during Schiaparelli’s descent. Signals recorded by both Earth-based assets and Europe’s Mars Express orbiter stopped shortly before the module was expected to make a soft touchdown on the Red Planet.

Detailed telemetry recorded by the Trace Gas Orbiter from Schiaparelli during its plunge to the planet has been partially analyzed.

Credit: ESA

Credit: ESA

 

 

What’s known?

That evaluation confirms that the Schiaparelli entry and descent stages occurred as expected, with events diverging from what was expected after the ejection of the back heat shield and parachute. This ejection itself appears to have occurred earlier than expected, but analysis is not yet complete, according to an ESA statement.

Furthermore, the Schiaparelli thrusters were confirmed to have been briefly activated “although it seems likely that they switched off sooner than expected, at an altitude that is still to be determined,” adds the ESA statement.

On patrol - NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) can image the whereabouts and condition of ESA's Schiaparelli lander. Credit: NASA/JPL

On patrol – NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) can image the whereabouts and condition of ESA’s Schiaparelli lander.
Credit: NASA/JPL

NASA assets

To help piece together what took place over Mars – and the true condition of Schiaparelli – two NASA assets can play a role.

One of those is NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and its super-powerful camera system. Another on-the-ground asset is the Opportunity rover. Although a literal long-shot, the robot explorer did take images of the expected entry of the ESA lander.

Opportunity rover's current location at Spirit Mound. Did it catch the Schiaparelli sky show? Courtesy: James Rice/MER/JPL

Opportunity rover’s current location at Spirit Mound. Did it catch the Schiaparelli sky show?
Courtesy: James Rice/MER/JPL

 

Ground imagery

“Coordinated release with ESA is planned for any of these observations — by MRO or Opportunity — that show Schiaparelli, said Guy Webster, a Jet Propulsion Laboratory spokesman. “The Opportunity raw images go public as soon as they get to Earth, of course,” he told Inside Outer Space.

“Observations by MRO of various portions of the Schiaparelli landing ellipse have been planned during the two weeks after the landing, into early November, seeking to image the lander,” Webster said.

Rover long-shots

Exploring the area nearby the Schiaparelli landing ellipse is the Opportunity rover.

Approximate region in box where Schiaparelli lander might have been visible above horizon by Opportunity - admittedly a long-shot. Credit: James Rice/MER/JPL

Approximate region in box where Schiaparelli lander might have been visible above horizon by Opportunity – admittedly a long-shot.
Credit: James Rice/MER/JPL

“We appear to have five images between earliest parachute deployment time and latest backshell jettison time, and do not see anything that looks like Schiaparelli,” said Mark Lemmon on the Opportunity tactical shift rover control group.

Lemmon is also associate professor in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at Texas A & M University in College Station, Texas.

“We were advised that it [Schiaparelli] was more likely coming in short than long,” Lemmon told Inside Outer Space.

Curiosity Front Hazcam Left B image taken on Sol 1494, October 19, 2016. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Front Hazcam Left B image taken on Sol 1494, October 19, 2016.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now in Sol 1494.

Ken Herkenhoff of the USGS Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona reports that winds at the Curiosity site unexpectedly influenced the “Quela” dump pile.

Images taken by rover’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) and the Chemistry & Camera Remote Micro-Imager showed the pile was offset from the center of the pile.

Curiosity ChemCam Remote Micro-Imager photo taken on Sol 1493, October 18, 2016. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

Curiosity ChemCam Remote Micro-Imager photo taken on Sol 1493, October 18, 2016.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

Dump pile movement

“After looking at more of the recent images,” Herkenhoff reports, “it became clear that the dump pile had been moved by winds!” A plan was put together, but delayed, to repeat the ChemCam passive observation and an Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) study on the dump pile at its new position.

“Hopefully the wind won’t blow away the dump pile,” Herkenhoff adds, “before APXS can measure its chemical composition!”

Drill campaign

Last weekend’s plan was the official start of a Curiosity drill campaign on the target “Sebina,” so the robot will be staying at its location through the week, notes Ryan Anderson, also of the USGS Astrogeology Science Center.

Curiosity Mastcam Right image taken on Sol 1492, October 17, 2016. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity Mastcam Right image taken on Sol 1492, October 17, 2016.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

On Sol 1492, the rover did a lot of remote sensing, starting off with an early morning suite of atmospheric observations using Navcam and Mastcam.

Anderson reports that the rover’s Mastcam took a 360 degree mosaic from the Mars machinery’s current location.

Since touching down in August 2012, Curiosity has driven over 9 miles (15 kilometers).

 

President Barack Obama delivers a speech at the Operations and Checkout Building at NASA Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. on Thursday, April 15, 2010. Obama visited Kennedy Space Center to deliver remarks on a new course the Administration is charting for NASA and the future of U.S. leadership in human space flight. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

President Barack Obama delivers a speech at the Operations and Checkout Building at NASA Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. on Thursday, April 15, 2010. Obama visited Kennedy Space Center to deliver remarks on a new course the Administration is charting for NASA and the future of U.S. leadership in human space flight.
Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

In the waning days of his administration, U.S. President Obama has been paying unusual attention to space, recently highlighting his accomplishments and further goals for exploration of the solar system.

What’s up with that?

President Obama looks through a telescope during the 2009 White House Astronomy Night. Credit: Chuck Kennedy

President Obama looks through a telescope during the 2009 White House Astronomy Night.
Credit: Chuck Kennedy

Take a read of my new Scientific American article:

Blue Planet/Red Planet Politics: Obama’s Giant Leap for Legacy

Go to:

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/blue-planet-red-planet-politics-obama-s-giant-leap-for-legacy/

Credit: ESA

Credit: ESA

Landing Update: 

“We appear to have five images between earliest parachute deployment time and latest backshell jettison time, and do not see anything that looks like Schiaparelli,” said Mark Lemmon on the Opportunity tactical shift rover control group. He is associate professor in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at Texas A & M University in College Station, Texas.

“We were advised that it [Schiaparelli] was more likely coming in short than long,” Lemmon told Inside Outer Space.

Landing day

On October 19th, the European Space Agency’s (ESA) ExoMars 2016 entry, descent and landing demonstrator module is set to burrow through the Martian atmosphere and land in a relatively flat area in Meridiani Planum, close to the equator in the southern hemisphere.

Within possible viewing range of ESA’s Schiaparelli’s landing site is NASA’s Opportunity rover, on Mars duty since its landing in 2004.

Credit: ESA

Credit: ESA

Locked and uploaded

In the hope of catching a glimpse of the overhead action, Opportunity is locked and uploaded with special instructions.

Word is that Opportunity operators will try to image Schiaparelli’s entry, descent and landing (EDL) with the rover’s Pancam.

“It is likely that the descent with the parachute will be obscured from Opportunity’s viewpoint by Endeavour’s rim because the landing site is to the west of the rover’s current location,” explains Ray Arvidson, Mars Exploration Rover deputy principal investigator at Washington University St. Louis.

“If the descent extends more to the east of the targeted location we may see the parachute,” Arvidson told Inside Outer Space. “Thus we are sequencing Pancam images of the possible descent path,” he said.

Approximate region in box where Schiaparelli lander may be visible above horizon by Opportunity if vehicle goes long. Credit: James Rice/MER/JPL

Approximate region in box where Schiaparelli lander may be visible above horizon by Opportunity if vehicle goes long.
Credit: James Rice/MER/JPL

Mid-afternoon on Mars

Schiaparelli was released by its mothership – ESA’s Trace Gas Orbiter – on October 16th.  Atmospheric entry of the lander is expected 14:42 GMT / 16:42 CEST, landing 14:48 GMT / 16:48 CEST).

Schiaparelli’s EDL would occur in mid-afternoon of Opportunity’s Sol 4528.

Any rover imagery of the incoming ESA vehicle would arrive on Earth late Wednesday afternoon, Arvidson said, “but it is unlikely we will be able to image the parachute, given the targeted landing site.”

Remote chance

Meanwhile, Opportunity has been busily exploring Endeavour Crater in its 10th extended mission, explains astrogeologist Jim Rice, part of the geology theme group for the Mars Exploration Rover project and senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona.

Opportunity rover's current location at Spirit Mound. Will it catch the Schiaparelli sky show? Courtesy: James Rice/MER/JPL

Opportunity rover’s current location at Spirit Mound. Will it catch the Schiaparelli sky show?
Courtesy: James Rice/MER/JPL

“We will attempt to image Schiaparelli as it arrives in our neck of the woods on October 19th,” Rice told Inside Outer Space. “But if the entry and descent of Schiaparelli is nominal, the Opportunity rover will not see anything because its path will be blocked by the topography of the western rim of Endeavour crater,” he said.

“However, there is a remote chance we could see it above the crater rim if the descent trajectory is long toward the east,” Rice added. “Bottom line is that we will be giving it our best effort and, hopefully, we get lucky.”

Opportunity odds

So what are the odds of Opportunity spotting the Schiaparelli sky show?

“It is exciting to think about the possibility of seeing a visitor coming,” said Mark Lemmon on the Opportunity tactical shift rover control group. He is associate professor in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at Texas A & M University in College Station, Texas.

Lemmon told Inside Outer Space that there is a realistic possibility, but not a likelihood, of seeing part of Schiaparelli’s parachute descent – maybe one chance in seven.

ESA’s Schiaparelli landing at Meridiani Planum on Mars on October 19, 2016. Credit: ESA/ATG medialab

ESA’s Schiaparelli landing at Meridiani Planum on Mars on October 19, 2016.
Credit: ESA/ATG medialab

Pixel-sized chute

“The parachute would be, at best, around pixel-sized. If there is enough residual glow in the heat shield, that could be a second pixel,” Lemmon said. “We are balancing the desire to maximize the odds of getting at least a few images of Schiaparelli with the constrained downlink we have available that sol [Martian day].”

“If we were talking about a flat plain, and without dusty season, we’d be trying to prune down our options,” Lemmon said. That is, image the entry phase, turn to image the parachute phase, maybe use multiple directions since the lander ellipse is so big – from west on a bit past north, in angle, he said.

Rim shot

But the Opportunity rover is in a hole.

The Schiaparelli entry is not viewable, Lemmon said. If the European probe lands in the middle of the landing ellipse, or comes in short, nothing will be viewable. If the probe goes long, to the east, it might come over the crater rim from the rover’s point of view, and also be closer to the rover.

“We are watching the horizon,” Lemmon said. “Previously, we figured about one chance in seven of having the parachute go through the frame. We’d likely point to maximize the chance of seeing anything, but there may be arguments for one part of the descent over another.”

Lemmon added that any sharp-shooting of an incoming Schiaparelli has to cope with the Martian dust, as the sky is comparable in brightness to the parachute.

Artist's impression of Schiaparelli, the ExoMars entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, as it approaches the Martian surface. Credit: ESA/ATG medialab

Artist’s impression of Schiaparelli, the ExoMars entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, as it approaches the Martian surface.
Credit: ESA/ATG medialab

Extra perspective

“Because of that, we think we have to use [Opportunity’s] Pancam’s higher sensitivity to small objects and its filters, rather than Navcam’s larger field of view,” Lemmon said. “We’re still collecting information about the descent expectations, weather, and local horizon, and will use all of that for our final plans.”

Lemmon said that the ESA Schiaparelli team has been very interested in the images. Those images would be an “extra perspective” on Schiaparelli’s position, winds, maybe heat shield deployment.

Artist impression of the Schiaparelli module on the surface of Mars. Credit: ESA

Artist impression of the Schiaparelli module on the surface of Mars.
Credit: ESA

“The images are not central to what they need,” Lemmon said, “but if we get them it would be a great bonus. We have a shot at watching an incoming spacecraft from the surface of another planet…good times!”

Credit: CCTV

Credit: CCTV

China’s space lab Tiangong-2 is in good condition and ready to receive the piloted Shenzhou-11 spacecraft that successfully launched from Jiuquan satellite launch center on Monday (Beijing time).

Tiangong-2 has been in orbit for 30 days since its launch on September 15, 2016.

Beijing Aerospace Control Center adjusted the space lab for the last time early Sunday to prepare it to dock with Shenzhou-11. The control center also made some preparation so that the astronauts can live and work under safe conditions in the space lab.

Docking orbit

The docking orbit is at an altitude of nearly 245 miles (393 kilometers) above the Earth. Shenzhou-11 will be on its own in orbit for 2-days before docking with Tiangong-2.

Credit: CCTV America

Credit: CCTV America

“We have conducted relevant tests of the pressure, temperature and toxic gas in Tiangong-2,” explains Chen Xianfeng, a director at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center. “By doing so, the astronauts will have normal working and living conditions after they get inside it. After testing, we have identified that there is no toxic gas. We have ensured that Tiangong-2 is fully operational, ready to dock with Shenzhou-11.”

Craft in good condition

According to Yan Donglai, engineer in Kashgar space observation station: “Looking at the measurement and control systems seen by the mission control center, the Shenzhou-11 spacecraft is currently in a good condition. The circuit is working smoothly between the spacecraft and observation deck, and meanwhile, images of the cabin crew and area outside sent from the craft seem to be normal.”

The Kashgar space observation deck was the first site to observe the Shenzhou-11 spacecraft, shortly after its launch on Monday.

Credit: CCTV

Credit: CCTV

30-day mission

As China’s sixth piloted space mission, the Shenzhou-11 spacecraft carried into Earth orbit astronauts Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong. It is the third space mission for Jing, 50, and the first for Chen, 38.

The plan calls for them to reside in the Tiangong-2 space lab for 30 days and carry out a number of experiments. Experience gained is geared to putting in place China’s space station in the 2020s.

Video resources

For a series of CCTV-plus videos on the launch and the Shenzhou-11 mission, go to:

http://cd-pv.news.cctvplus.com/2016/1017/8034513_Preview_2103.mp4

http://l3-pv.news.cctvplus.com/2016/1017/8034537_Preview_1476702245180.mp4

http://l3-pv.news.cctvplus.com/2016/1017/8034543_Preview_1476706326274.mp4

 

 

China's Shenzhou-11 atop Long March booster. Credit: CCTV

China’s Shenzhou-11 atop Long March booster.
Credit: CCTV

 

China’s next piloted space mission is ready for liftoff at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China.

The spacecraft launch is scheduled at 07:30 on Monday, October 17, local Beijing time. (7:30 p.m. eastern time, Sunday)

The Long March-2F carrier rocket to hurl the two-person Shenzhou-11 craft into Earth orbit is under final fueling and checkout processes.

Shenzhou-11 will carry two male astronauts, veteran space traveler, Jing Haipeng and first-time flyer, 38-year old, Chen Dong.

Shenzhou-11 will carry two male astronauts, veteran space traveler, Jing Haipeng (right) and first-time flyer, 38-year old, Chen Dong. Crew photos: ChinaSpaceflight‏.com

Shenzhou-11 will carry two male astronauts, veteran space traveler, Jing Haipeng (left) and first-time flyer, 38-year old, Chen Dong.
Crew photos: ChinaSpaceflight‏.com

The 50-year-old Jing will be commander of the mission. It will be Jing’s third spaceflight following his Shenzhou-7 mission in 2008 and Shenzhou-9 mission in 2012.

Month-long voyage

Two days after launch, the spacecraft will dock with the orbiting space lab Tiangong-2. The astronauts will stay in the space lab for 30 days. Doing so would mark the longest-ever spaceflight for Chinese astronauts.

The mission of Shenzhou-11 is a key to improve space station building techniques. Credit: CCTV

The mission of Shenzhou-11 is a key to improve space station building techniques.
Credit: CCTV

Shenzhou-11 will dock with orbiting space lab Tiangong-2 within two days after launch.

After a month attached to the space lab, the Shenzhou-11 spaceship will separate with Tiangong-2 and return to Earth within one day.

Credit: CCTV

Credit: CCTV

More experiments

The Shenzhou-11 mission aims to transport personnel and materials between Earth and Tiangong-2, and examine rendezvous, docking and return technologies.

In a press conference, Chen Dong described the upcoming mission:

“The features of this mission are long duration with more experiments,” Chen said. “We have improved capacities to deal with on-orbit emergencies, first-aid capacities and capacities to conduct space experiments. I think only when we treat the ground training as the real mission in space, can we be confident and calm enough to deal with the real mission easily as we were trained on the ground,” he said.

Credit: CSU

Credit: CSU

 

Veteran space flyer, Jing Haipeng, commander of Shenzhou-11explained:

“As an astronaut to conduct missions more than once, I think it is our dream,” Jing said. “This time I have the honor toconduct my third space mission, and I want to express my thanks for my motherland and the people, for the efforts and support from thousands of aerospace science and technology staff. I will stay true to the mission and do my best to be a good astronaut.”

Credit: CSU

Credit: CSU

Trio of alterations

At a press conference at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center Spokeswoman,Wu Ping said the main functions and technical parameters of Shenzhou-11 remain almost the same as that of Shenzhou-10, she said.

Wu pointed to a trio of alterations that were made to satisfy the coming flight’s needs and further improve its reliability and safety and to verity the future space technology.

“The first is to satisfy the needs of this space flight mission. We adjusted the orbit control strategy and flight procedure. The purpose is to satisfy the needs of the change of the rendezvous docking orbit and return orbit from 343 kilometers to 393 kilometers,” Wu said.

At the same time, she added, the layout of the cargo loading was optimized and adjusted in order to further improve the transportation capabilities of the flight.

Tiangong-2 satellite deployer. Credit: CSU

Tiangong-2 satellite deployer.
Credit: CSU

“The second is to further improve safety and reliability. We newly mounted the broad-band relay communication terminal. The purpose is to significantly enlarge the coverage rate of the telemetry tracking and communication and elevate the space-and-ground communication support capabilities when the spaceship altitude is changing rapidly,” Wu said. “This thus improved the safety of the astronauts and the reliability of the spaceship.”

Wu said that the third is to verify the future space technology. “To satisfy the space station’s long-life requirements in the future, we made some upgrades in the equipment of docking measurement of Shenzhou-11.”

To watch the launch, go to CCTV-News, China’s preeminent 24-hour English language television channel:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wuzZYzSoEEU

ESA’s mission control in Darmstadt, Germany - ready for ExoMars 2016's mission to begin. Credit: ESA

ESA’s mission control in Darmstadt, Germany – ready for ExoMars 2016’s mission to begin.
Credit: ESA

 

 

On Sunday, October 16, 2016, the European Space Agency’s ExoMars 2016 Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) will release its entry, descent and landing demonstrator, Schiaparelli, towards the Red Planet.

 

ESA will livestream this critical and milestone-making event, starting on October 16th at 10:30 AM Eastern Time.

Go to:

www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/ExoMars/Watch_ExoMars_arrival_and_landing

Artist's impression depicting the separation of the ExoMars 2016 entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, named Schiaparelli, from the Trace Gas Orbiter. Credit: ESA/ATG medialab

Artist’s impression depicting the separation of the ExoMars 2016 entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, named Schiaparelli, from the Trace Gas Orbiter.
Credit: ESA/ATG medialab

Several missions in one

ExoMars is several missions in one.

Its orbiter is a science and relay mission. The TGO will search for evidence of gases, such as methane, that may be associated with geological or biological processes.

The Schiaparelli lander is a technology demonstrator to test key technologies for future missions to Mars.

The landing site for Schiaparelli is an elliptical region close to the equator in the planet’s Meridiani Planum area.

Artist's impression of Schiaparelli, the ExoMars entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, as it approaches the Martian surface. Credit: ESA/ATG medialab

Artist’s impression of Schiaparelli, the ExoMars entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, as it approaches the Martian surface.
Credit: ESA/ATG medialab

Wobble time

At ESA’s ESOC control centre in Darmstadt, Germany, control teams are preparing for separation of Schiaparelli from the TGO.

For separation, releasing the 1,272 pound (577 kilograms) lander will make TGO wobble. This could affect the very sensitive antenna pointing needed to ensure a full data link, so mission controllers will monitor progress only via the basic radio carrier signal, with the signal acting like a beacon.

To obtain an update on the ExoMars 2016 mission, ESA has issued a set of videos: ExoMars at Mars; Mars arrival orbits; and Schiaparelli’s descent to Mars.

To access these informative videos, go to:

http://livestream.com/ESA/marsarrival/videos

 

All is go as ESA's ExoMars 2016 approaches Mars. The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter is set to dispatch its entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, Schiaparelli, on October 19. Credit: ESA/ATG medialab

All is go as ESA’s ExoMars 2016 approaches Mars. The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter is set to dispatch its entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, Schiaparelli, on October 19.
Credit: ESA/ATG medialab

 

The European Space Agency’s ExoMars 2016 mission has made its final pre-arrival orbit correction maneuver.

ExoMars 2016 is a two part mission: the Trace Gas Orbiter approaches and enters orbit around the Red Planet, and the Schiaparelli module lands on its surface

Next major milestone is on October 16 with separation of Schiaparelli from the orbiter at 14:42 GMT/ 16:42 CEST.

 

Separation on Sunday

According to ESA, the October 14th burn was the last push needed to perfectly line the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) up on the right orbit to deliver Schiaparelli onto the surface three days after separation on Sunday.

Flight Director Michel Denis reported a very tiny underperformance from TGO’s thrusters, but the burn overall was very good.

The next TGO engine burn is scheduled for 12 hours after separation of Schiaparelli on October 17, raising the TGO’s orbit above Mars.

ESA’s Schiaparelli landing at Meridiani Planum on Mars on October 19, 2016. Credit: ESA/ATG medialab

ESA’s Schiaparelli landing at Meridiani Planum on Mars on October 19, 2016.
Credit: ESA/ATG medialab

On October 19, Schiaparelli is slated to carry out its entry, descent and landing on Mars. Atmospheric entry expected 14:42 GMT / 16:42 CEST, landing 14:48 GMT / 16:48 CEST).

The "footprints" of Schiaparelli’s 15 descent camera images will follow a roughly clockwise order, from larger to smaller fields-of-view. In this simulated view, the first image is taken at about 3 kilometers (km) altitude and covers roughly 17 square km, while the final image is taken at about 1.5 km and covers 4.6 square km. The images are to be taken every 1.5 seconds. Credit: Background map - NASA/JPL/MRO; simulation: ESA

The “footprints” of Schiaparelli’s 15 descent camera images will follow a roughly clockwise order, from larger to smaller fields-of-view. In this simulated view, the first image is taken at about 3 kilometers (km) altitude and covers roughly 17 square km, while the final image is taken at about 1.5 km and covers 4.6 square km. The images are to be taken every 1.5 seconds.
Credit: Background map – NASA/JPL/MRO; simulation: ESA

All go!

Both the TGO orbiter and Schiaparelli demonstration lander are “go” for arrival, according to an ESA statement: “Schiaparelli is GO for entry, descent, landing and surface operations. TGO is GO for Mars orbit insertion.”

 

 

 

ESA’s ExoMars Project Manager Don McCoy said: “People have put their hearts and souls into this. We’re ready to go.”

 

 

 

 

 

Live coverage

Live coverage of ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter arrival and Schiaparelli landing on Mars will begin on October 16 with the separation of the two spacecraft.

 

Watch all livestreaming events here at:

http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/ExoMars/Watch_ExoMars_arrival_and_landing

Griffith Observatory Event