ExoMars Finds New Gas Signatures in the Martian Atmosphere

Artist’s impression of the ExoMars 2016 Trace Gas Orbiter at Mars. (Credit: ESA/ATG medialab)

PARIS (ESA PR) — ESA’s ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter has spotted new gas signatures at Mars. These unlock new secrets about the martian atmosphere, and will enable a more accurate determination of whether there is methane, a gas associated with biological or geological activity, at the planet.

The Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) has been studying the Red Planet from orbit for over two years. The mission aims to understand the mixture of gases that make up the martian atmosphere, with a special focus on the mystery surrounding the presence of methane there.


ExoMars Parachute Fails in Test

ExoMars 2020 parachute deployment sequence (Credit: ESA)

KIRUNA, Sweden, 12 August 2019 (ESA PR) — As the second ExoMars mission, comprising a rover and surface science platform, progresses towards launch next year, teams continue to troubleshoot the parachute design following an unsuccessful high-altitude drop test last week.


ExoMars Orbiter Now Circling Mars, No Contact With Lander

Artist impression of the Schiaparelli module on the surface of Mars. (Credit: ESA/ATG medialab)
Artist impression of the Schiaparelli module on the surface of Mars. (Credit: ESA/ATG medialab)

DARMSTADT, Germany, 19 October 2016 (ESA PR) — The Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) of ESA’s ExoMars 2016 has successfully performed the long 139-minute burn required to be captured by Mars and entered an elliptical orbit around the Red Planet, while contact has not yet been confirmed with the mission’s test lander from the surface.


ExoMars Spacecraft Enters Orbit; Fate of Lander Unknown

Trace Gas Orbiter, Schiaparelli and the ExoMars rover at Mars. (Credit: ESA/ATG medialab)
Trace Gas Orbiter, Schiaparelli and the ExoMars rover at Mars. (Credit: ESA/ATG medialab)

ESA has placed its ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter into orbit around the Red Planet. However, the fate of the Schiaparelli lander lander remains unknown. No signal has been received yet.

18:53 CEST: The ExoMars/TGO spacecraft completed its critical orbit-insertion manoeuvre at Mars today and its signals were received by ground stations at 18:34 CEST, just as expected. The timely re-acquisition indicates the engine burn went as planned, and mission controllers are waiting for a detailed assessment from the flight dynamics specialists at ESOC to confirm it.

Teams monitoring the Schiaparelli lander continue waiting for indication of the lander’s progress. Engineers are waiting for the next signal receipt slot, which will be provided by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which will overfly the Schiaparelli landing site between about 18:49 and 19:03 CEST, and downlink any received signals at around 20:00 CEST.

18:35 CEST: ACQUISITION OF SIGNAL from the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter after it emerged from behind Mars.

17:28 CEST: The orbit insertion manoeuvre of the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter should have ended but the spacecraft is now behind Mars on the line of sight from Earth. Acquisition of signal is expected when TGO emerges from behind Mars after 18:32 CEST.

17:12 CEST: End of planned Schiaparelli transmission. Initial signals were received via the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT) as Schiaparelli descended to the surface of Mars, but no signal indicating touchdown yet. This is not unexpected due to the very faint nature of the signal received at GMRT. A clearer assessment of the situation will come when ESA’s Mars Express will have relayed the recording of Schiaparelli’s entry, descent and landing.

16:50 CEST: Signals from Mars take 9 minutes 47 seconds to reach Earth today, so the teams are waiting for the first indications that the entry, descent and landing events actually happened at Mars. It may take some hours to get official confirmation that Schiaparelli has landed on the Red Planet. Stay tuned.



Watch ExoMars Launch Live on Monday

Trace Gas Orbiter and Schiaparelli mated to Breeze upper stage. (Credit: ESA - B. Bethge)
Trace Gas Orbiter and Schiaparelli mated to Breeze upper stage. (Credit: ESA – B. Bethge)

PARIS (ESA PR) — Livestreaming of the ExoMars launch will begin on 14 March at 08:30 GMT (09:30 CET). Regular text updates will be provided here.

Launch is scheduled for 09:31 GMT (10:31 CET) on 14 March with first acquisition of signal expected at around 21:29 GMT (22:29 CET).

Follow @ESA_ExoMars, @esaoperations and @esascience on twitter for additional #ExoMars coverage. Once mission controllers have established contact with TGO following acquisition of signal, the @ESA_TGO Twitter account will become active.

Provisional schedule

08:30 GMT / 09:30 CET Morning programme, including live launch coverage

11:00 GMT / 12:00 CET Afternoon programme, including regular live updates on the status of the mission, a series of dedicated presentations on the scientific goals and operational challenges and milestones of the ExoMars missions, and informal question and answer sessions

21:10 GMT / 22:10 CET Evening programme, including confirmation of spacecraft separation, solar array deployment and first acquisition of signal

21:45 GMT /22:45 CET End of event

Times subject to change.