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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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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ESA Euronews: Από την Ισπανία στον Άρη

H περιοχή Ρίο Τίντο στη Νότια Ισπανία έχει κεντρίσει εδώ και πολλά χρόνια το ενδιαφέρον των επιστημόνων και των αστροβιολόγων, καθώς οι συνθήκες εδώ προσομοιάζουν με αυτές που επικρατούν στον Κόκκινο Πλανήτη. Το Euronews βρέθηκε στην περιοχή για να μιλήσει με τους επιστήμονες που μελετούν διάφορες μορφές ζωής που συναντάμε εδώ.

ESA Euronews: Marte en la Tierra

La comarca de Río Tinto en el sur de españa presenta un entorno ácido y duro como el de Marte. Los científicos la estudian porque si hay vida aquí, quizás también exista en el planeta rojo o en otros cuerpos celestes de nuestro sistema solar.

Los científicos del Centro de Astrobiología de Madrid buscan señales de vida en otras lunas y planetas de nuestro sistema solar. Y lo hacen tomando muestras en lugares extraordinarios.