ExoMars is ready for science!

ExoMars is ready for Martian science!

ESA’s Trace Gas Orbiter mission arrived at Mars in October 2016. After a year spent carefully adjusting its position, the spacecraft is now beginning its science operations.

The Trace Gas Orbiter’s instruments will be able to look through the atmosphere to identify trace gases – in particular methane – which could indicate signs of past or even present life. The orbiter will also act as a relay for rovers on the Martian surface.

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Fly over Neukum crater

This movie, based on images taken by ESA’s Mars Express, showcases the 102 km wide Neukum Crater in the southern hemisphere of Mars.

The crater is named for the German physicist and planetary scientist, Gerhard Neukum, one of the founders of ESA’s Mars Express mission who inspired and led the development of the high-resolution stereo camera on Mars Express.

This complex impact crater has a diverse geologic history, as indicated by various features on the crater rim and floor. Particularly striking are the dark dune fields, likely made up of volcanic material blown in and shaped by strong winds.

The crater’s shallow interior has been infilled by sediments over its history. It is also marked with two irregular depressions that may be a sign of a weaker material that has since eroded away, leaving behind some islands of more resistant material.

Over time the crater rim has undergone varying degrees of collapse, with landslides and slumped material visible in the crater walls. Many smaller craters have also overprinted the rim and pockmarked the interior since Neukum Crater was formed, highlighting its long history.

Neukum Crater is situated in Noachis Terra, one of the oldest known regions on Mars, dating back to at least 3.9 billion years.

Credits: Animation: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO; Music: Coldnoise, CC BY-SA 4.0 and Adrian Neesemann

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Learn more: http://bit.ly/ESACraterNeukum

Preparing CHEOPS

The space telescope CHEOPS (CHaracterising ExOPlanet Satellite) has left a clean room in Switzerland, where it was assembled and tested, and is on its way to Madrid for further launch preparations. The telescope will study hundreds of known exoplanets using the transit method – measuring the dip in light as a planet transits its parent star.

CHEOPS will herald a new era of discovery. Its precision measurements will give more detailed information about a planet’s structure, atmosphere and surface temperature. It was built at the University of Bern and the mission is a partnership between ESA and Switzerland with additional contributions from Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

Integration and testing of the CHEOPS spacecraft is ongoing and the project is on track to reach flight readiness by the end of 2018.

This film contains soundbites from Willy Benz, CHEOPS principal investigator, ESA/University of Bern and Andrea Fortier, Cheops Instrument Scientist, ESA/University of Bern.

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Learn more: bit.ly/ESACHEOPS

Mars sample return

Spacecraft in orbit and on Mars’s surface have made many exciting discoveries, transforming our understanding of the planet and unveiling clues to the formation of our Solar System, as well as helping us understand our home planet. The next step is to bring samples to Earth for detailed analysis in sophisticated laboratories where results can be verified independently and samples can be reanalysed as laboratory techniques continue to improve.

Bringing Mars to Earth is no simple undertaking—it would require at least three missions from Earth and one never-been-done-before rocket launch from Mars.

A first mission, NASA’s 2020 Mars Rover, is set to collect surface samples in pen-sized canisters as it explores the Red Planet. Up to 31 canisters will be filled and readied for a later pickup – geocaching gone interplanetary.

In the same period, ESA’s ExoMars rover, which is also set to land on Mars in 2021, will be drilling up to two meters below the surface to search for evidence of life.

A second mission with a small fetch rover would land nearby and retrieve the samples in a Martian search-and-rescue operation. This rover would bring the samples back to its lander and place them in a Mars Ascent Vehicle – a small rocket to launch the football-sized container into Mars orbit.

A third launch from Earth would provide a spacecraft sent to orbit Mars and rendezvous with the sample containers. Once the samples are safely collected and loaded into an Earth entry vehicle, the spacecraft would return to Earth, release the vehicle to land in the United States, where the samples will be retrieved and placed in quarantine for detailed analysis by a team of international scientists.

Credits: NASA

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Learn more: http://bit.ly/BringingMartianSoilToEarth

Earth from Space: special edition

Discover more about our planet with the Earth from Space video programme. In this special edition, Sentinel-3 Mission Scientist Craig Donlon joins us from the cleanroom at Thales Alenia Space in Cannes to explain how Sentinel-3 is helping us better understand our oceans.

ESA Euronews: Mars on Earth

The Rio Tinto river snakes through the Spanish countryside for 100 kilometres, a dark, blood-red stain of acid water and rusty-looking rocks that scientists love to study. Both ESA and NASA experts regularly spend weeks in the Rio Tinto, examining the life underground, and using it as a test bed to look for life on Mars.

This video is also available in the following languages:
German: https://youtu.be/K2D8T5i_Myk
French: https://youtu.be/7cynIaX5O0I
Italian: https://youtu.be/LOYgvHSR84g
Spanish: https://youtu.be/YI9Prr0ZVrw
Portuguese: https://youtu.be/VSDmRn-rRTE
Greek: https://youtu.be/7KW2SJc2Yjo
Hungarian: https://youtu.be/M0c6Ev63acs

ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter completes aerobraking

Since arriving at Mars in October 2016, the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter has been aerobraking its way into a close orbit of the Red Planet by using the top of the atmosphere to create drag and slow down. It is almost in the right orbit to begin observations – only a few hundred kilometres to go! With aerobraking complete, additional manoeuvres will bring the craft into a near-circular two-hour orbit, about 400 km above the plane, by the end of April. The mission’s main goal is to take a detailed inventory of the atmosphere, sniffing out gases like methane, which may be an indicator of active geological or biological activity. The camera will help to identify surface features that may be related to gas emissions. The spacecraft will also look for water-ice hidden below the surface, which could influence the choice of landing sites for future exploration. It will also relay large volumes of science data from NASA’s rovers on the surface back to Earth and from the ESA–Roscosmos ExoMars rover, which is planned for launch in 2020.

Visit our website to learn more about ExoMars: https://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/ExoMars