Space

ExoMars 2016 is on its way to the Red Planet

ExoMars 2016 is on its way to ...
Artist's impression of the ExoMars 2016 Trace Gas Orbiter, with its thrusters firing, beginning its entry into Mars orbit on 19 October 2016
Artist's impression of the ExoMars 2016 Trace Gas Orbiter, with its thrusters firing, beginning its entry into Mars orbit on 19 October 2016
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The Combined Aerothermal and Radiometer Sensors Instrument Package, COMARS+
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The Combined Aerothermal and Radiometer Sensors Instrument Package, COMARS+
The ExoMars 2016 entry, descent, and landing demonstrator module, called Schiaparelli
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The ExoMars 2016 entry, descent, and landing demonstrator module, called Schiaparelli
The three-stage Proton launch vehicle rolling out
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The three-stage Proton launch vehicle rolling out
The Proton-M enroute to the launch pad
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The Proton-M enroute to the launch pad
Lowering of the ExoMars 2016 spacecraft onto the launch adapter
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Lowering of the ExoMars 2016 spacecraft onto the launch adapter
The ExoMars 2016 spacecraft with some of the launch team
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The ExoMars 2016 spacecraft with some of the launch team
The ExoMars 2016 entry, descent and landing demonstration module, known as Schiaparelli, in a cleanroom at Thales Alenia Space in Cannes, France
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The ExoMars 2016 entry, descent and landing demonstration module, known as Schiaparelli, in a cleanroom at Thales Alenia Space in Cannes, France
Artist's impression shows the interior of Schiaparelli
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Artist's impression shows the interior of Schiaparelli
The ExoMars 2016 awaiting mating
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The ExoMars 2016 awaiting mating
The Proton-M with ExoMars 2016 being raised
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The Proton-M with ExoMars 2016 being raised
Artist's impression of the ExoMars 2016 Trace Gas Orbiter and Schiaparelli
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Artist's impression of the ExoMars 2016 Trace Gas Orbiter and Schiaparelli
Artist's impression of the ExoMars 2016 Trace Gas Orbiter at Mars
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Artist's impression of the ExoMars 2016 Trace Gas Orbiter at Mars
Artist's impression of the ExoMars 2016 Trace Gas Orbiter on its journey to Mars with the entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, Schiaparelli, attached
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Artist's impression of the ExoMars 2016 Trace Gas Orbiter on its journey to Mars with the entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, Schiaparelli, attached
Artist's impression of the ExoMars 2016 Trace Gas Orbiter
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Artist's impression of the ExoMars 2016 Trace Gas Orbiter
Artist's impression visualising the separation of the payload fairing during the ExoMars 2016 launch sequence
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Artist's impression visualising the separation of the payload fairing during the ExoMars 2016 launch sequence
Artist's impression visualising the separation of the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter
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Artist's impression visualising the separation of the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter
Artist's impression visualising the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter and its entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, Schiaparelli, approaching Mars
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Artist's impression visualising the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter and its entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, Schiaparelli, approaching Mars
Artist's impression of the separation of the ExoMars entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, Schiaparelli, from the Trace Gas Orbiter
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Artist's impression of the separation of the ExoMars entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, Schiaparelli, from the Trace Gas Orbiter
Artist's impression of the ExoMars 2016 Trace Gas Orbiter, with its thrusters firing, beginning its entry into Mars orbit on 19 October 2016
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Artist's impression of the ExoMars 2016 Trace Gas Orbiter, with its thrusters firing, beginning its entry into Mars orbit on 19 October 2016
The ExoMars 2016 successfully lifts off
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The ExoMars 2016 successfully lifts off

The latest mission to Mars began its long journey today as the ExoMars 2016 lifted off at 09:31 GMT atop a Russian Proton-M/Breeze-M rocket at the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. A joint effort led by the European Space Agency (ESA) and Roscosmos, ExoMars 2016 is the first of a two-spacecraft mission to the Red Planet with the second unmanned probe scheduled to launch in 2018.

According to ESA, the three-stage Proton launch vehicle lifted the 4,332 kg (9,550 lb) spacecraft to an altitude of over 4,900 km (3,044 mi). At 20:13 GMT, the Breeze-M upper stage will eject the probe at a velocity of 33,000 km/h (18,000 mph), which is fast enough for it to achieve a transfer orbit to Mars.

Currently, the ExoMars 2016 is incommunicado, but radio contact is expected to by made at 21:28 GMT, or 12 hours after lift off, by the Italian Space Agency's Malindi ground station in Kenya, which will relay the signals to mission control at the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany.

If contact is successful, ExoMars 2016 will spend the next several weeks in commissioning tests leading up to its arrival in Mars orbit on October 19 after traveling a total of 496 million km (308 million mi). Three days previous, on October 16, the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) mothership will release the Schiaparelli entry, descent, and landing demonstrator module, which will plunge into the Martian atmosphere on arrival day

The Proton-M enroute to the launch pad
The Proton-M enroute to the launch pad

The ExoMars 2016 mission is short for Exobiology Mars and is tasked with looking for evidence of life on Mars. It consists of the TGO and Schiaparelli module. The TGO will look for traces of methane in the Martian atmosphere with an eye on learning more about the mechanism that produces it and to determine if this is geological, chemical, or biological. It will also send back images of the Martian surface and search for subsurface ice deposits.

Meanwhile, the Schiaparelli module's brief career will be to take readings of the atmosphere during its descent to the surface. Though it's not a lander, it will test landing radar, navigational cameras, and other instruments that will be used for the ExoMars 2018 lander mission. If it survives the descent, the probe will not be able to send back pictures from the surface, but it will continue to send back telemetry for as long as its batteries hold out.

Source: ESA

2 comments
FollowTheFacts
"...looking for evidence of life on Mars..." ...there is plenty of evidence of "life" on Mars by now... ...this type of quest has been going on since the seventies...they didn't find anything then and hasn't since...
Don Duncan
If there is water, I'd bet the farm there is life. Water did exist, so I'd bet there are fossils.