Following a lengthy firing of its powerful engine this morning, ESA’s ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter is on track to arrive at the Red Planet in October.
ExoMars made its first critical manoeuvre since its 14 March launch this morning, firing its engine for 52 minutes to help it intercept Mars on 19 October.
ExoMars, a joint mission with Russia’s Roscosmos, was launched on 14 March and has already travelled well over half way of its nearly 500 million km journey.
The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, TGO, is carrying the Schiaparelli entry, descent and landing demonstrator. Upon arrival, Schiaparelli will test the technology needed for the 2020 rover to make a controlled landing, while its parent craft will brake into an elliptical orbit around Mars.
Over the following months, TGO will shave the outer reaches of the atmosphere to lower its orbit. Its final circular orbit at about 400 km altitude will allow it to begin its five-year scientific mission in December 2017.
TGO will analyse rare gases in the planet’s atmosphere, especially methane, which on Earth may indicate either active geological or biological processes.