ExoMars on its way to solve the Red Planet's mysteries

The first of two joint ESA–Roscosmos missions to Mars has begun a seven-month journey to the Red Planet, where it will address unsolved mysteries of the planet's atmosphere that could indicate present-day geological – or even biological – activity.

The Trace Gas Orbiter and the Schiaparelli entry, descent and landing demonstrator lifted off on a Proton-M rocket operated by Russia's Roscosmos at 09:31 UTC (10:31 CET) this morning from Baikonur, Kazakhstan.Following separation of Proton's first and second stages, the payload fairing was released. The third stage separated nearly 10 minutes after liftoff.The Breeze-M upper stage, with ExoMars attached, then completed a series of four burns before the spacecraft was released at 20:13 UTC (21:13 CET).Signals from the spacecraft, received at ESA's control centre in Darmstadt, Germany via the Malindi ground tracking station in Africa at 21:29 UTC (22:29 CET), confirmed that the launch was successful and the spacecraft is in good health.The orbiter's solar wings have also now unfolded and the craft is on its way to Mars.

CaSSIS - Colour and Stereo Surface Imaging System

The Colour and Stereo Surface Imaging System (CaSSIS) will be part of the instrument payload on the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter. CaSSIS will characterise sites that have been identified as potential sources of trace gases and investigate dynamic surface processes – for example, sublimation, erosional processes and volcanism – which may contribute to the atmospheric gas inventory. The instrument will also be used to certify potential landing sites by characterising local slopes, rocks and other possible hazards.By acquiring colour and stereoscopic images of surface features, CaSSIS will allow scientists to investigate whether specific types of geological processes might be associated with trace gas sources and sinks. The NOMAD and ACS instruments, also being carried by the orbiter, will identify sources of trace gases that could be evidence for biological or geological activity. The CaSSIS imaging system will have a horizontal scale of about five metres per pixel; stereoscopic reconstruction will enable a vertical resolution of about six metres.

CaSSIS will be located on the Mars-surface-facing side of the orbiter. The orbiter science payload will be primarily nadir pointing to keep the Martian surface in constant view.  The orbiter will rotate about an axis that will maintain its solar panels oriented towards the Sun while avoiding solar illumination of its thermal radiators. CaSSIS can compensate for the spacecraft's yaw rotation using a drive mechanism, but during nominal stereoscopic imaging the orbiter will pause its yaw-rotation to maximise the paired-image accuracy. The rotation mechanism will be able to turn the entire telescope system by 180° while its support structure remains fixed...Read more : Website ESA

Nicolas Mangold, researcher CNRS, is Co-Investigator of Insrument CaSSIS.


exomars 2

 Crédit : ESA