ESA’s ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) and Schiaparelli, also known as the ExoMars Entry, descent and landing Demonstrator Module are seen here during vibration testing at Thales Alenia Space, in Cannes, France. Credit: ESA–S. Corvaja, 2015

ESA’s ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) and Schiaparelli, also known as the ExoMars Entry, descent and landing Demonstrator Module are seen here during vibration testing at Thales Alenia Space, in Cannes, France.
Credit: ESA–S. Corvaja, 2015

Europe’s ExoMars spacecraft is almost complete for launch next year. ExoMars 2016 is nearing construction in its clean room at Thales Alenia Space in France.

The Mars-bound mission is a joint effort between the European Space Agency (ESA) and Russia’s Roscosmos. That sojourn consists of a Trace Gas Orbiter plus an Entry, Descent and Landing Demonstrator Module (EDM) called Schiaparelli.

ExoMars 2016 launch window is January 7-27 with the Orbiter and EDM hurled Marsward on a Russian Proton rocket. The two elements will fly to the Red Planet in a mated configuration.

Search for methane

The main objectives of this mission are to search for evidence of methane and other trace atmospheric gases that could be signatures of active biological or geological processes.

In addition, ExoMars 2016 will evaluate key technologies in preparation for ESA’s contribution to subsequent missions to Mars.

The orbiter itself will circle Mars to image surface features and study the composition of the atmosphere. The Trace Gas Orbiter will also serve as a data relay asset for the 2018 rover mission of the ExoMars program and until the end of 2022.

EXOMARS 2018 ESA

 

Prelude to Mars rover

ExoMars 2016 will send back information about the Martian atmosphere and the lander’s findings.

This information will inform the follow-on second part of the mission in 2018.

In that time period, a landed European rover will drill into the Martian surface, down some six feet (two meters) deep.

The rover will be trying to detect traces of organic molecules that indicate the presence of past or present life on Mars.

 

NOTE: ESA has issued an informative video on the upcoming 2016 mission and the 2018 rover, available here:

http://www.esa.int/spaceinvideos/Videos/2015/06/ExoMars

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