Europe’s ExoMars missions are go – finally

Dec 3, 2015

by Jonathan Amos

The first of Europe’s ExoMars missions is finally ready to get under way.

This initial venture will involve a satellite going to the Red Planet to study trace gases, such as methane, in the atmosphere.

The orbiter will also drop a probe on to the surface to test technologies needed to land the second mission – a rover – that should arrive in 2019.

The path to this point has been a tortuous one, with the programme coming close to collapse on several occasions.

ExoMars has gone through several iterations since being approved formally by European Space Agency (Esa) member states in 2005. Its vision has expanded from a small technology demonstration to a two-legged endeavour that will cost in the region of 1.3 billion euros.

In all the upheaval, ExoMars has also now become a joint undertaking with the Russian space agency (Roscosmos).

The new partner literally rescued the project when the Americans dropped it as a priority, and will be providing key components and science instruments for both missions, as well as the Proton rockets to get all the hardware to Mars.

Wednesday saw officials from both Esa and Roscosmos inspect the finished satellite and test lander at Thales Alenia Space in Cannes, France. TAS is the lead European contractor for ExoMars.

One of its senior directors, Vincenzo Georgio, said that it had taken a herculean effort to get the satellite and demo lander ready for flight.

“The baby’s there in the cleanroom and ready to go,” he told me.

“How did we get here? Two reasons. The first was the willingness of the people who wanted this programme. And the second was that, despite all the storms – the funding problems, the politics – we worked as if nothing was happening outside. We worked triple shifts; we worked seven days a week. And you see the result.”


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5 comments on “Europe’s ExoMars missions are go – finally

  • @OP – “How did we get here? Two reasons. The first was the willingness of the people who wanted this programme. And the second was that, despite all the storms – the funding problems, the politics – we worked as if nothing was happening outside. We worked triple shifts; we worked seven days a week. And you see the result.”

    The scientists with vision, making progress, despite the politics!!



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  • Other space news:-

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-35013190

    The New Horizons probe has at last returned some of the super-sharp pictures it took of Pluto during its historic flyby in July.

    The images released by the US space agency on Friday show details on the surface of the dwarf planet at a resolution better than 80m per pixel.

    On Earth at this scale, one could easily discern a city park.

    With New Horizons, we see crystal clear views of mountains, craters and smooth ice fields.

    “These close-up images, showing the diversity of terrain on Pluto, demonstrate the power of our robotic planetary explorers to return intriguing data to scientists back here on Planet Earth,” said John Grunsfeld, the head of Nasa’s science directorate.



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  • Also:-

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-34593908

    The EU’s latest Earth observer, Sentinel-2a, has gone operational.

    Users are now able to download its images of the planet, although they will need to register first.

    The Sentinel, which has been undergoing in-orbit testing since its launch back in June, views the land surface in optical and infrared light.

    Its pictures will be used by scientists to track everything from the growth of megacities to the variable yields of the world’s most important food crops.

    And researchers will, of course, use 2a’s acquisitions prominently in climate studies (examples are being shown at the COP21 talks in Paris).

    But the EU’s free and open data policy means anyone can now download and play with the images.

    One of the major sources to date of free pictures has been the American Landsat series of spacecraft, which have assembled a continuous record of the world’s fluctuating features stretching back more than 40 years.

    The next Sentinel to be launched in the EU’s multi-billion-euro Copernicus Earth observation programme is numbered 3a.

    It will focus its gaze more on the oceans. The launch of this platform should take next month.

    Even more spacecraft will follow in the coming years.



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  • despite the politics

    The “big men” of chess should be barred from upsetting the whole board.

    Some of us want a future beautiful.



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  • and the gravity wave experiments:-

    https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn28618-pathfinder-blasts-off-to-look-for-einsteins-gravitational-waves/

    3 December 2015
    Pathfinder blasts off to look for Einstein’s gravitational waves

    The European Space Agency’s LISA Pathfinder spacecraft took off from Kourou, French Guiana at 01:04 local time on 3 December, one day later than planned due to a technical issue with the Vega rocket that carried it into orbit. This meant it just missed the 100th anniversary of Albert Einstein’s publication of the theory of general relativity – whose predictions scientists hope to test with instruments like those on board.



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