Tags: exomars | mission | nose | sniff | life

ExoMars Mission Puts Big Nose Over Red Planet to Sniff Out Life

Image: ExoMars Mission Puts Big Nose Over Red Planet to Sniff Out Life

ExoMars 2016 lifts off at Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. (Stephane Corvaja/ESA via Getty Images)

By    |   Monday, 14 Mar 2016 12:27 PM

The ExoMars mission by the European Space Agency and the Russian Federal Space Agency kicked off Monday with the first of two scheduled launches in a renewed effort to find current and past life on the red planet.

The Russian Proton rocket, which blasted off on Monday, will arrive in Mars orbit in October and is carrying a robotic Schiaparelli EDM (Entry, Descent and Landing) Lander and Trace Gas Orbiter, according to The Verge.

"Once there, the Trace Gas Orbiter will put itself into orbit around the planet and measure the types of gases in the atmosphere," wrote The Verge. "Specifically, the orbiter is looking for traces of methane — a potential indicator of biological life on the planetary surface below. Sending probes to Mars to determine if the planet is — or has ever been — home to alien life."

One of the mission's project scientists, Jorge Vago, told Germany news outlet Deutsche Welle that the Trace Gas Orbiter will essentially act as "a big nose in space," as it analyzes Mars' atmosphere.

The Schiaparelli lander will "maximizes the use of technologies already in development within the ExoMars program," said a European Space Agency statement. "These technologies include: special material for thermal protection, a parachute system, a radar Doppler altimeter system, and a final braking system controlled by liquid propulsion."

The lander is expected to touch down on Mars on Oct. 19 while the Trace Gas Orbiter's mission science operations will start December 2017 and last until 2022, according to the European Space Agency.

"ESA and Roscosmos (Russian Federal Space Agency) will both notch huge milestones if ExoMars goes well," said Space.com. "Since emerging from the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia has launched two missions to the Red Planet: Mars 96, in 1996, and Phobos-Grunt, in 2011. Neither one made it out of Earth orbit.

"The Soviet Union, of course, had a lengthy history of Mars exploration. But, while the nation did score a few notable successes — such as the Mars 2 orbiter, which sent photos of the Red Planet back to Earth in 1971-1972 — the majority of Soviet Mars missions failed."

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The ExoMars mission by the European Space Agency and the Russian Federal Space Agency kicked off Monday with the first of two scheduled launches in a renewed effort to find current and past life on the red planet.
exomars, mission, nose, sniff, life
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2016-27-14
Monday, 14 Mar 2016 12:27 PM
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