How Europe’s ExoMars Missions to Mars Work (Infographic)
Exobiology on Mars (ExoMars) is an ambitious mission being undertaken by the European Space Agency and its international partners. In 2016, the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) and Schiaparelli lander will be launched on a Russian Proton rocket. In 2018, the ExoMars rover will be launched.
TGO’s mission is to sniff Mars’ atmosphere for evidence of methane, a gas with implications for the existence of life on the Red Planet. Schiaparelli’s main purpose is to demonstrate Mars-landing technology. It is expected to survive only a few days on the surface, running off of its internal batteries. The little lander is 5.4 feet (1.65 m) in diameter and weighs just 1,323 lbs. (600 kg).
Set to be launced on a Russian Proton rocket in 2018, the golf-cart-size ExoMars rover will spend six months searching for signs of present or extict life on Mars.
The rover’s onboard biology laboratory looks for molecules indicative of life, while its 6.6-foot (2.2 m) surface drill brings up samples for analysis. A tall mast carries the panoramic camera system (PanCam) with twin lenses for stereoscopic imaging. Ground-penetrating radar looks for ice under the surface.