ExoMars: Progress and Challenges

ExoMars 2020 parachute deployment sequence (Credit: ESA)

TURIN, Italy, 28 June 2019  (ESA PR) — The full parachute system that will help deliver the ExoMars rover and a surface science platform to the martian surface has completed a full-scale high-altitude deployment sequence test, although unexpected damage to the main parachutes occurred.

Meanwhile, the main elements of the descent module hardware, including the heat shield that will protect the lander as it enters the atmosphere of Mars, have been delivered to Thales Alenia Space in Turin, Italy, this week.

(more…)

Mars Rover Gets Work-out Controlled From More than 6,000 Miles Away

The Atacama desert as seen by a Mars rover. (Credit: ExoFit PanCam team)

OXFORDSHIRE, UK (UKSA PR) — A space control centre in the UK has been used to test-drive a prototype Mars rover thousands of miles away in Chile’s Atacama desert.Experts at the European Space Agency’s centre in Oxfordshire completed a series of tests across nearly 6,900 miles (11,000 km) in order to see how the Mars rover reacts to commands across large distances.

When on the surface of Mars, the rover will need to be controlled when it is up to 250 million miles from Earth.

(more…)

ExoMars Rover Named After Co-Discoverer of DNA Structure

Rosalind Franklin (Credit: Jewish Chronicle Archive/Heritage-Images)

STEVENAGE, UK, February 7, 2019 (UKSA PR) — The UK made ExoMars rover, due to roam the surface of the red planet in 2021, has been named after UK scientist and co-discoverer of the structure of DNA – Rosalind Franklin.

The name was revealed this morning by Science Minister Chris Skidmore and British European Space Agency (ESA) Astronaut Tim Peake in the ‘Mars Yard’ at Airbus Defence and Space UK in Stevenage, where the rover is being built.

Chris Skidmore, UK Science Minister said:

“It is a tremendously fitting tribute that the rover has been named after Rosalind Franklin as she helped us understand life on Earth and now her namesake will do the same on Mars.

“Just as Rosalind Franklin overcame many obstacles during her career, I hope ‘Rosalind the rover’ will successfully persevere in this exciting adventure, inspiring generations of female scientists and engineers to come.

“This is a big moment for British science and through our modern Industrial Strategy we are embracing this moment as part of our ambition to be the world’s most innovative economy, creating opportunities for business through science.”

(more…)

ExoMars Highlights Radiation Risk for Mars Astronauts

ExoMars orbiter and rover (Credit: ESA/ATG medialab)

BERLIN, Germany (ESA PR) — Astronauts on a mission to Mars would be exposed to at least 60% of the total radiation dose limit recommended for their career during the journey itself to and from the Red Planet, according to data from the ESA-Roscosmos ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter being presented at the European Planetary Science Congress, EPSC, in Berlin, Germany, this week.

The orbiter’s camera team are also presenting new images of Mars during the meeting. They will also highlight the challenges faced from the recent dust storm that engulfed the entire planet, preventing high-quality imaging of the surface.
(more…)

Name Europe’s Mars Rover Competition

ESA’s Exo Mars Rover (Credit: ESA)

FARNBOROUGH, UK — 20 July 2018 (ESA PR) — The UK Space Agency has launched a competition to name a rover that is going to Mars to search for signs of life.Due to launch in 2020, the UK-built rover is part of ESA’s ExoMars mission. It will investigate how Mars has evolved and whether there may be conditions for life.

The ExoMars rover will be the first of its kind to travel across the martian surface and drill down to determine if evidence of life is buried underground, protected from the Sun’s radiation that bombards the surface of the ‘Red Planet’.

(more…)

Scientists Shrink Chemistry Lab to Seek Evidence of Life on Mars

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — An international team of scientists has created a tiny chemistry lab for a rover that will drill beneath the Martian surface looking for signs of past or present life. The toaster oven-sized lab, called the Mars Organic Molecule Analyzer or MOMA, is a key instrument on the ExoMars Rover, a joint mission between the European Space Agency and the Russian space agency Roscosmos, with a significant contribution to MOMA from NASA. It will be launched toward the Red Planet in July 2020.

(more…)

ESA and NASA to Investigate Bringing Martian Soil to Earth

Martian soil (Credit: NASA)

BERLIN (ESA PR) — ESA and NASA signed a statement of intent today to explore concepts for missions to bring samples of martian soil to Earth.

Spacecraft in orbit and on Mars’s surface have made many exciting discoveries, transforming our understanding of the planet and unveiling clues to the formation of our Solar System, as well as helping us understand our home planet. The next step is to bring samples to Earth for detailed analysis in sophisticated laboratories where results can be verified independently and samples can be reanalysed as laboratory techniques continue to improve.
(more…)

ESA Tests Largest Mars Parachute

KIRUNA, Sweden (ESA PR) — The largest parachute ever to fly on a Mars mission has been deployed in the first of a series of tests to prepare for the upcoming ExoMars mission that will deliver a rover and a surface science platform to the Red Planet.

The spacecraft that will carry them is due for launch in July 2020, with arrival at Mars in March 2021. The rover will be the first of its kind to drill below the surface and determine if evidence of life is buried underground, protected from the destructive radiation that impinges the surface today.

(more…)

ESA Completes Inquiry into ExoMars Schiaparelli Failure

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) imaged the ExoMars Schiaparelli module’s landing site on 25 October 2016, following the module’s arrival at Mars on 19 October. The zoomed insets provide close-up views of what are thought to be several different hardware components associated with the module’s descent to the martian surface. These are interpreted as the front heatshield, the parachute and the rear heatshield to which the parachute is still attached, and the impact site of the module itself. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona)

PARIS (ESA PR) — The inquiry into the crash-landing of the ExoMars Schiaparelli module has concluded that conflicting information in the onboard computer caused the descent sequence to end prematurely.

The Schiaparelli entry, descent and landing demonstrator module separated from its mothership, the Trace Gas Orbiter, as planned on 16 October last year, and coasted towards Mars for three days.

(more…)

USA, China Led World in Launches in 2016

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the OA-6 mission lifted off from Space Launch Complex 41. (Credit: ULA)
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the OA-6 mission lifted off from Space Launch Complex 41. (Credit: ULA)

Part 1 of 2

The United States and China led the world in orbital launch attempts in 2016 with 22 apiece. The combined 44 launches made up more than half of the 85 flights conducted around the world.

(more…)

UK Space Agency Allocates 1.4 Billion Euros to ESA Budget

UK_space_agencySWINDON, England (UKSA PR) — UK Space Agency allocates more than €1.4 billion over the next five years to European Space Agency programmes at the Council of Ministers in Lucerne, Switzerland.

  • €670.5 million investment in satellite technology for UK industry and science, including telecommunications, Earth observation, navigation and satellite services supporting every sector of the economy, including
  • €23 million to build on UK leadership of ESA’s climate change monitoring programme, based at the ECSAT facility in Harwell, Oxford.
    €82.4 million for the next phase of the ExoMars programme, to put a British-built rover on the surface of Mars.
  • €71 million for ESA’s International Space Station programme to 2021 and for the future of deep space exploration, building on the legacy of Tim Peake’s Principia mission

(more…)

ESA Approves 10.3 Billion Euro Budget; ISS Extended, ExoMars Funded

ESA logoMinisters from 22 ESA member countries approved a multi-year spending plan of €10.3 billion ($11 billion) for the European space agency, a reduction from the  €11 billion ($11.74 billion) that Director General Jan Dietrich Woerner had sought.

The budget includes an extension of the International Space Station to 2020 to 2024. ESA was the last of the international partners to approve the extension after the United States, Russia, Japan and Canada.

(more…)

Is Arca Space to Blame for Failure of ESA’s ExoMars Lander?

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) imaged the ExoMars Schiaparelli module’s landing site on 25 October 2016, following the module’s arrival at Mars on 19 October. The zoomed insets provide close-up views of what are thought to be several different hardware components associated with the module’s descent to the martian surface. These are interpreted as the front heatshield, the parachute and the rear heatshield to which the parachute is still attached, and the impact site of the module itself. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona)
NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) imaged the ExoMars Schiaparelli module’s landing site on 25 October 2016, following the module’s arrival at Mars on 19 October. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona)

Accusations are flying that ESA’s ExoMars Schiaparelli lander crashed into the Red Planet due to poor ground testing conducted by a Romanian company named ARCA Space.

ESA released the preliminary conclusions after the Italian Space Agency had accused that the decisive tests for the Sciaparelli lander simulations had been entrusted to an organization “which hadn’t enough expertize”. It’s about Arca Space Romanian company, based in Las Cruces, USA, as La Repubblica reported.

In retort, the Arca Space Corporation manager, Dumitru Popescu warned the Italian space agency to be more careful, as they don’t have proves to support their accusations. “They could pay the price. We are at ease that we did all we could do: to run a specific test we should have flown very closely to the Russian base in Sevastopol. Russia has just annexed Crimea and we risked generating a conflict between the Russian Federation and NATO,” the Romanian manager argued.

ESA said last week that an inertia measurement unit became saturated with data during descent, providing data that made the lander’s computer believe the vehicle was either about to land or had already landed. The computer ordered the release of the parachute even though the lander was still 3.7 km above the martian surface.

Schiaparelli was designed to test the landing system for a rover that ESA plans to place on the surface. Agency officials have said they gained valuable data from the test.

Arca Space has set up operations in Las Cruces, NM, where it is making hover boards.

Detailed Images of Schiaparelli & Descent Hardware on Martian Surface

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) imaged the ExoMars Schiaparelli module’s landing site on 25 October 2016, following the module’s arrival at Mars on 19 October. The zoomed insets provide close-up views of what are thought to be several different hardware components associated with the module’s descent to the martian surface. These are interpreted as the front heatshield, the parachute and the rear heatshield to which the parachute is still attached, and the impact site of the module itself. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona)
NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) imaged the ExoMars Schiaparelli module’s landing site on 25 October 2016. The zoomed insets provide close-up views of what are thought to be several different hardware components associated with the module’s descent to the martian surface. These are interpreted as the front heatshield, the parachute and the rear heatshield to which the parachute is still attached, and the impact site of the module itself. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona)

DARMSTADT, Germany (ESA PR) — A high-resolution image taken by a NASA Mars orbiter this week reveals further details of the area where the ExoMars Schiaparelli module ended up following its descent on 19 October.

The latest image was taken on 25 October by the high-resolution camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and provides close-ups of new markings on the planet’s surface first found by the spacecraft’s ‘context camera’ last week.

(more…)

View of ESA Mars Probe on Surface

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter view of Schiaparelli landing site. (Credit: NASA)
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter view of Schiaparelli landing site. (Credit: NASA)

DARMSTADT, Germany, 21 October 2016 (ESA PR) — NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has identified new markings on the surface of the Red Planet that are believed to be related to ESA’s ExoMars Schiaparelli entry, descent and landing technology demonstrator module.

(more…)