ExoMars 2016 in detail

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This Nature article provides a nice summary of the European/Russian ExoMars 2016 mission that on Wednesday will try to place a lander on Mars as well as put an orbiter in orbit.

Neither probe is going to provide many exciting photos. The orbiter, dubbed boringly the Trace Gas Orbiter, is designed to study Mars’ atmosphere, while the lander, Schiaparelli, is essentially a technology test mission for planning and designing what Europe and Russia hope will be a more ambitious lander/orbiter mission in 2020.

Anyone expecting spectacular pictures from Schiaparelli itself might be disappointed — photos will be limited to 15 black-and-white shots of the Martian surface from the air, intended to help piece together the craft’s trajectory. No photos will be taken on the surface, because the lander lacks a surface camera.

Schiaparelli’s instruments will study the Martian atmosphere, including the possible global dust storm that might happen this month but so far has not yet appeared. The instruments will also be able to detect lightning, should it exist on Mars.

One comment

  • Localfluff

    Someone involved in the mission said in an interview the last few days, that from the beginning Schiaparelli was meant to be a multi year science lander powered by a Russian RTG. This is the result of budget cuts, a weather station and an EDL tech demo. Anyway, stationary landers, I think, nowadays need heavy payload like a deep drill or ascent vehicle for sample return in order to be motivated over a mobile platform (such as a rover or a hopper).

    They are lucky to have real potential for a (global?) dust storm coming up! Should be a very good time to look for heavenly lightnings as that thing build up. They picked the landing site because Spirit landed there and discovered local dust devils, hoping to figure out if they are electrically charged.

    TGO will answer whether there are methane producing biological processes on Mars or not. Is it 4 years since the first tentative measurement of Methane on Mars was published? It’s a very short time until that question gets answered. I heard that MMX, KAXA’s Mars’ Moons Exploration, will take place in 2024. It is still open if ESA or someone else will contribute a semi-Philly sized lander, which most likely would be a jumping one in that milligravity, or not, but MMX will carry small Hayabusa type landers anyway. At every conjunction from 2012 on wards, Mars will be pounded by science probes that get better and better and complement each other.

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