Thursday, June 16, 2016

ExoMars sends first image of Red Planet — European Space Agency

The camera of the Russian-European inter-planetary space probe ExoMars has captured the first image of the Red Planet, where it is scheduled to arrive in October, the European Space Agency said.

"The orbiter and Mars were 41 million kilometers apart on June 13 when the image was taken. Although it does not compare to the high resolution scenes that will be returned once the spacecraft is finally at Mars, it is an important milestone for the camera team," the European Space Agency said.

According to the ESA ExoMars has traveled less half of the 500 million kilometers it must cover to reach the expected destination. The ESA said the images confirmed the camera’s capabilities.

ExoMars made the first photograph on April 7. It was a picture of a randomly selected area of the sky.

The Russian-European space probe ExoMars-2016 was launched from the Baikonur space site with a Proton-M rocket on March 14. The mission consists of the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO), and the descent module Schiaparelli, which will arrive at Mars in October. The TGO will be studying the composition of Mar’s atmosphere and the distribution of water ice in Martian soil. Schiaparelli will practice entry into the atmosphere, descend and landing. Its work cycle on the Martian surface is expected to last several days, as long as the electric batteries’ capacity permits. The TGO is to enter into orbit around Mars on October 19. The Schiaparelli descent module will land on the planet the same day.

The second phase of the ExoMars mission envisages the sending of a Russian landing platform and a European rover to Mars. The key tasks at this stage will be drilling and analysis of Martian soil. Scientists hope they may discover traces of organic life at a depth of several meters.

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