ExoMars arrives at the Red Planet
The ExoMars 2016 mission will enter orbit around the Red Planet on 19 October. At the same time, its Schiaparelli lander will descend to the surface. Representatives of traditional and social media are invited to attend a two-day event at ESA’s ESOC control centre in Darmstadt, Germany.
ExoMars is a joint endeavour between ESA and Russia’s Roscosmos space agency, and comprises the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) and the Schiaparelli entry, descent and landing demonstrator.
TGO will make a detailed inventory of Mars’ atmospheric gases, with particular interest in rare gases like methane, which implies that there is an active, current source. TGO aims to measure methane’s geographical and seasonal dependence and help to determine whether it stems from a geological or biological source.
TGO will start its science mission at the end of 2017, following a year of complex aerobraking manoeuvres to circularise its orbit. It will also act as a relay for ESA’s ExoMars 2020 rover.
Schiaparelli will separate from TGO on 16 October, entering the atmosphere for a six-minute descent to a region in Meridiani Planum, on 19 October.