EU, Russia to launch ExoMars mission in 2020

ESA and Roscosmos are collaborating on a mars mission to send a rover to the Red Planet this year.


NSFW    ZURICH, SWITZERLAND — The EU and Russia are collaborating on a mission to Mars to try and answer the question of whether life has ever existed on the Red Planet.

According to the European Space Agency, the ExoMars programme is comprised of two missions. The first — the Trace Gas Orbiter — launched in 2016 to orbit Mars and examined its atmosphere.

The Schiaparelli lander had been deployed with the Trace Gas Orbiter to the surface but crashed during a touchdown attempt.

The second mission, slated for July 2020, will launch Roscosmos' Kazachok surface platform and the ESA's Rosalind Franklin rover to Mars via a Proton rocket.

After a nine-month journey, a descent module will separate from the carrier and perform a controlled landing on the surface of the Red Planet, at a site called the Oxia Planum.

Space reports that the Oxia Planum is a plain in the planet's northern hemisphere that is rich in clay deposits, indicating ancient water activity.

After touchdown, the Kazachok platform will remain at the landing site to study the surface environment. Instruments on board will be used to take images of the landing point, study subsurface water distribution, as well as the planet's atmosphere and internal structure.

The rover, meanwhile, will travel across the planet's surface, using stereo cameras to build navigation maps and collision avoidance cameras to navigate the terrain. It will drill up to 2 meters down to retrieve underground samples that may contain preserved biomarkers, which will be subject to chemical, physical, and spectral analysis.

New Atlas reports that the mission has had trouble in the past with the parachutes, which tore in high-altitude tests.

The team has since worked with NASA to iron out the issues, and have announced that the previous problems have been eliminated. But to be sure, further tests will be conducted ahead of the official launch later in the year.
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