Europe's Daring Mars Mission Prepares for Touchdown
The Trace Gas Orbiter and Schiaparelli lander are on their final approach to Mars, kicking off the first half of Europe's life-hunting ExoMars mission.
An accurate visual and spectral characterisation of the surface of Mars is fundamental to establish the geological context at the sites that the Rover will visit. This can be complemented by electromagnetic and neutron subsurface investigations, which will further contribute to understand the depositional environment (e.g. sedimentary, volcanic, Aeolic). Knowledge of the geological history of past water environments constitutes a necessary step in the search for traces of past or present signatures of life on Mars.
Data from the novel suite of instruments on-board the ExoMars rover will help scientists to conduct a step-by-step exploration of Mars, beginning at panoramic (metre) scales and progressively converging to smaller (sub-millimetre) studies, concluding with the molecular identification of organic compounds.
|PanCam - The Panoramic Camera|
|To perform digital terrain mapping of Mars.|
|Principal Investigator: Andrew John Coates, MSSL/University College London, London, United Kingdom
Co-Principal Investigator (High Resolution Camera): Ralf Jaumann, DLR/IPF, Berlin, Germany
Co-Principal Investigator (Wide Angle Cameras): Jean-Luc Josset, Institute for Space Exploration, Neuchâtel, Switzerland.
|ISEM - Infrared Spectrometer for ExoMars|
|To assess the mineralogical composition of surface targets. Working with PanCam, ISEM will contribute to the selection of suitable samples for further analysis by the other instruments.|
|Principal Investigator: Oleg Korablev, Space Research Institute (IKI), Moscow, Russia|
|CLUPI - Close - UP Imager|
|A camera system to acquire high-resolution colour close-up images of rocks, outcrops, drill fines and drill core samples.|
|Principal Investigator: Jean-Luc Josset, Space Exploration Institute, Neuchâtel, Switzerland
Co-Principal Investigator: Frances Westall, Centre de Biophysique Moléculaire, Orléans, France
Co-Principal Investigator: Beda Hofmann, Natural History Museum, Bern, Switzerland.
|WISDOM - Water Ice and Subsurface Deposit Observation On Mars|
|A ground-penetrating radar to characterise the stratigraphy under the rover. WISDOM will be used with Adron, which can provide information on subsurface water content, to decide where to collect subsurface samples for analysis.|
|Principal Investigator: Valérie Ciarletti, LATMOS, France
Co-Principal Investigator: Svein-Erik Hamran, FFI, Norway
Co-Principal Investigator: Dirk Plettemeier, TU-Dresden, Germany.
|To search for subsurface water and hydrated minerals. Adron will be used in combination with WISDOM to study the subsurface beneath the rover and to search for suitable areas for drilling and sample collection.|
|Principal Investigator: Igor Mitrofanov, Space Research Institute (IKI), Moscow, Russia.|
|Ma_MISS - Mars Multispectral Imager for Subsurface Studies|
|Located inside the drill, Ma_MISS will contribute to the study of the Martian mineralogy and rock formation.|
|Principal Investigator: Maria Cristina De Sanctis, Istituto di Astrofisica Spaziale e Fisica Cosmica (IASF), INAF, Italy.|
|A visible plus infrared imaging spectrometer for mineralogy studies on Martian samples.|
|Principal Investigator: Jean-Pierre Bibring, Institut d’Astrophysique Spatiale, Orsay, France
Co-Principal Investigator: Frances Westall, Centre de Biophysique Moléculaire, Orléans, France
Co-Principal Investigator: Nicolas Thomas, University of Bern, Switzerland.
|RLS - Raman Spectrometer|
|To establish mineralogical composition and identify organic pigments.|
|Principal Investigator: Fernando Rull Perez, Centro de Astrobiología, Unidad Asociada (CSIC-UVA), Spain
Co-Principal Investigator: Sylvestre Maurice, Laboratoire d'Astrophysique - Observatoire Midi-Pyrénées (LAOMP), France.
|MOMA – Mars Organic Molecule Analyser|
|MOMA will target biomarkers to answer questions related to the potential origin, evolution and distribution of life on Mars.|
|Principal Investigator: Fred Goesmann, Max-Planck-Institute for Solar System Research, Lindau, Germany
Co-Principal Investigator: Francois Raulin, University of Paris 12 and 7, Paris, France.
The ExoMars 2016 mission will enter orbit around the Red Planet on 19 October. At the same time, its Schiaparelli lander will descend to the surface. Representatives of traditional and social media are invited to attend a two-day event at ESA’s ESOC control centre in Darmstadt, Germany.
ExoMars is a joint endeavour between ESA and Russia’s Roscosmos space agency, and comprises the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) and the Schiaparelli entry, descent and landing demonstrator.
TGO will make a detailed inventory of Mars’ atmospheric gases, with particular interest in rare gases like methane, which implies that there is an active, current source. TGO aims to measure methane’s geographical and seasonal dependence and help to determine whether it stems from a geological or biological source.
TGO will start its science mission at the end of 2017, following a year of complex aerobraking manoeuvres to circularise its orbit. It will also act as a relay for ESA’s ExoMars 2020 rover.
Schiaparelli will separate from TGO on 16 October, entering the atmosphere for a six-minute descent to a region in Meridiani Planum, on 19 October.
It will test a range of technologies to enable a controlled descent and landing on Mars in preparation for future missions, including a heatshield, a parachute, a propulsion system and a crushable structure.
Schiaparelli also carries a small science package that will record the wind speed, humidity, pressure and temperature at its landing site, as well as obtain the first measurements of electric fields on the surface of Mars that may provide insight into how dust storms are triggered.
The separation of Schiaparelli from TGO will be covered online. Media are invited to join mission experts at ESOC on 19 October to follow the orbit insertion of TGO and the landing of Schiaparelli, and to attend a briefing on 20 October when the first descent camera images are expected.
(all times in CEST, programme/times subject to change)
15:00–22:00 (Doors open at 14:00)
The event programme for media and ExoMars project members will bring both groups together to follow the highlights of the orbit insertion of TGO and of the entry, descent and landing of Schiaparelli. During the programme confirmations for mission success of TGO and Schiaparelli are expected. On stage, ExoMars engineers and scientists from ESA, Roscosmos and partner agencies will relay the technical and operational challenges of landing on Mars and will explain the scientific questions that are driving these ambitious Mars robotic exploration programme. Operational status updates will be broadcasted live from the ExoMars control room into the stage programme.
There will be live video connections to an Italian ExoMars event taking place in Rome and to the postflight tour of ESA astronaut Tim Peake, who will stop by in London.
The event will also be live-streamed online at http://esa.int and will be broadcasted over satellite.
A special ESA social-TV programme will be available via Facebook Live on ESA’s Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/ESA.
10:00–11:00 (Doors open at 09:00)
This media briefing will summarise the events of the night before, during which more telemetry and data are expected to arrive from TGO and Schiaparelli. ExoMars engineers, scientists and project managers will provide briefings on TGO and Schiaparelli. Images taken during the descent from Schiaparelli will also be presented.
The media briefing will be streamed live online at http://esa.int and broadcast over satellite.
Media representatives holding a valid press-ID should register here.
Social media users such as Youtubers, Tweeps, Bloggers, etc. may apply for social media credentials here.
Given the expected high demand and limits owing to logistical, security and health and safety constraints, it is possible that not all applications will be successful. Applicants will be informed whether they have been successful at the latest on 11 October.
Separation will be reported online on 16 October at 17:20 GMT /19:20 CEST.
The media briefings scheduled for 19 and 20 October will be live streamed via http://esa.int.
The Trace Gas Orbiter and Schiaparelli lander are on their final approach to Mars, kicking off the first half of Europe's life-hunting ExoMars mission.
Mars, we've got our eyes on you. Next week, a European spacecraft will make a challenging entry into the Martian atmosphere to deploy a lander on the surface. Called Schiaparelli, the little lander is expected to demonstrate future landing technologies while doing at least a few days of observations on Mars. This is the first half of a two-part mission; the second half of ExoMars will be composed of a sophisticated "biosignature"-hunting rover that will launch to the Red Planet in 2020. But first, the trailblazing Schiaparelli will lead the way, testing key technologies behind a successful landing on Mars. Here are some of the milestones during Schiaparelli's descent:
Schiaparelli separates from the Trace Gas Orbiter above Mars, in this artist's impression. Credit: ESA/ATG medialab
The first major milestone for the landing has already passed. Last week, the European Space Agency sent commands to Schiaparelli to prepare for it landing. Commands were sent up in two rounds -- hibernation wake-ups and science work on Oct. 3, and the command sequence for landing on Oct. 7. The goal is for Schiaparelli to work autonomously as it gets ready for landing; as it takes an average of 40 minutes' round trip to send commands between Earth and Mars, any lander must make it to the surface on its own.
Schiaparelli has been riding on the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) for the past several months, but soon it will be time for each of the spacecraft to go their separate ways. On Oct. 16 (Sunday), Schiaparelli will separate from its carrier craft in preparation for the descent. On Oct. 19, Schiaparelli will make a descent to the surface while the TGO arrives in Mars orbit.
The landing ellipse of Schiaparelli is shown in this picture from ExoMars. Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO
Once Schiaparelli leaves its host spacecraft, it will make a run at this landing site (circled) in Meridani Planum. The landing demonstrator is expected to land in a flat, smooth region just west of Endeavour crater, which NASA's Spirit opportunity rover is currently exploring. The region just to the south of Schiaparelli's landing site shows a number of grooved channels. The European Space Agency says they were likely carved by water. Also visible in the picture is Bopolu crater, a newer impact site within the much larger Miyamoto crater.
While Schiaparelli works below, the Trace Gas Orbiter will continue a separate mission to look at Martian atmospheric gases -- particularly methane, which could be a sign of geological or biological activity. Finding methane on Mars has been a historically difficult endeavor, with different spacecraft and telescopes measuring different abundances. Even the Curiosity rover spotted an increase int he gas, but the spike was not repeated at the same seasonal time as the mission continued into another Martian year.
Shielded in its protective heat shield, Schiaparelli falls to Mars in an artist's impression. Credit: ESA/ATG medialab
Schiaparelli will ride in a protective shell for most of the journey down to the surface. It's needed to protect delicate spacecraft components from the challenging entry -- traveling at 13,000 miles per hour! -- into the Martian atmosphere, which is thinner than Earth's but still thick enough to burn up a spacecraft riding down in the wrong orientation. As the spacecraft makes the descent, command sequences will have to work precisely to get the science package down safely for further observation. It will only take six minutes from entry into Mars' upper atmosphere to landing.
Mars has traditionally been a challenging planet for NASA, ESA and other agencies. In 2003, ESA attempted to send down the Beagle 2 lander on the Martian surface. The lander vanished from view and was not found again until high-resolution imagery of its site revealed the craft in 2015. The lander appeared intact, but its solar panels had only partially deployed.
A parachute pops above Schiaparelli in this artist's impression. Credit: ESA/ATG medialab
Mars has a thin atmosphere, but it is thick enough to eventually slow down the Schiaparelli capsule as it falls to the surface. When Schiaparelli is about 11 kilometers (6.8 miles) from the surface and travelling at 1,700 km/h (1,056 mph), a parachute will pop out and slow its descent to a more reasonable 240 km/h (149 mph). At that point, the parachute will be jettisoned as Schiaparelli falls to the surface.
"The parachute is a 'disc-gap-band' type - the type that was used for the ESA Huygens probe descent to Titan [Saturn's moon] and for all NASA planetary entries so far," ESA wrote in a statement.
Schiaparelli on the surface of Mars, in this artist's impression. Credit: ESA/ATG medialab
After losing the parachute, Schiaparelli will make a complicated descent to the surface. "Commands include ejecting the front and back aeroshells, operating the descent sensors, deploying the braking parachute and activating three groups of hydrazine thrusters to control its touchdown speed," ESA wrote in a statement. "A radar will measure Schiaparelli's height above the surface starting at about 7 km (4.3 miles). At around 2 m (6.5 feet), Schiaparelli will briefly hover before cutting its thrusters, leaving it to fall freely. A collapsible structure under the lander will absorb the shock of impact.
Schiaparelli represents just the beginning for ESA. The agency plans to send its first rover to the surface of Mars in the next phase of the ExoMars mission. Additionally, the technologies tested by Schiaparelli could be used in future missions. The lander is designed to operate for two days on the surface, but it could be longer.
"Schiaparelli also carries a small science package that will record the wind speed, humidity, pressure and temperature at its landing site, as well as obtain the first measurements of electric fields on the surface of Mars that may provide insight into how dust storms are triggered," ESA wrote in another statement.
As the ExoMars Schiaparelli module descends onto Mars on 19 October it will capture 15 images of the approaching surface. Scientists have simulated the view we can expect to see from the descent camera.
Schiaparelli will separate from its mothership, the Trace Gas Orbiter, on 16 October, with some six million km still to travel before entering the atmosphere of Mars at 14:42 GMT three days later.
Its descent will take just under six minutes, using a heatshield, parachute, thrusters and a crushable structure for the landing.
Schiaparelli is primarily a technology demonstrator to test entry, descent and landing technologies for future missions and is therefore designed to operate for a only few days.
The small surface science package will take readings of the atmosphere, but there is no scientific camera like those found on other landers or rovers – including the ExoMars rover that is planned for launch in 2020.
The lander does, however, carry ESA’s small, 0.6 kg technical camera, a refurbished spare flight model of the Visual Monitoring Camera flown on ESA’s Herschel/Planck spacecraft to image the separation of the two craft after their joint launch.
Its role is to capture 15 black and white images during the descent that will be used to help reconstruct the module’s trajectory and its motion, as well giving context information for the final touchdown site.
The wide, 60º field-of-view will deliver a broad look at the landscape below, to maximise the chances of seeing features that will help to pinpoint the landing site and reveal Schiaparelli’s attitude and position during descent.
The camera will start taking images around a minute after Schiaparelli’s front shield is jettisoned, when the module is predicted to be about 3 km above the surface. This will result in images covering about 17 sq km on the surface.
The images will be taken at 1.5 s intervals, ending at an altitude of about 1.5 km, covering an area of roughly 4.6 sq km.
Then, at an altitude of about 1.2 km, the parachute and rear cover will be jettisoned, and the thrusters ignited. The thrusters will cut out just 2 m above the surface, with the module’s crushable structure absorbing the force of impact.
Schiaparelli will target the centre of a 100 km x 15 km landing ellipse, in a relatively flat area in Meridiani Planum, close to the equator in the southern hemisphere. This region has been imaged extensively from orbit, including by ESA’s Mars Express and NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
Updates from ESA’s space operations centre as the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter approaches and enters orbit around the Red Planet, and the Schiaparelli module lands on its surface
Updates on this page will cover the following expected milestones:
14 October: TGO final trajectory manoeuvre (08:45 GMT)
16 October: Separation of Schiaparelli from TGO at 14:42 GMT / 16:42 CEST
17 October: TGO orbit-raising manoeuvre at 02:42 GMT / 04:42 CEST
19 October: TGO Mars orbit insertion and Schiaparelli entry, descent and landing on Mars (atmospheric entry expected 14:42 GMT / 16:42 CEST, landing 14:48 GMT / 16:48 CEST)
20 October: Update on Schiaparelli status; descent images expected
21+ October: Schiaparelli status reports until end of mission
Note: Times shown above are actual event times at Mars; the one-way signal travel time between Earth and Mars is currently just under 10 minutes.
The events of 16, 19 and 20 October will also be livestreamed here, all other events will be reported on this page and via Twitter from @esaoperations, @ESA_ExoMars, @ESA_TGO and @ESA_EDM, and via the hashtag #ExoMars.
Updates will appear below
At ESOC today: The ExoMars/TGO mission control team begins working from the large, general-purpose Main Control Room as of 02:00CEST. Activities include spacecraft health and status check-outs and ground station tracking passes to support the highly accurate 'delta DOR' navigation technique. By this evening, all files and configuration settings needed to support separation will be finalised. Separation is set for 14:42 GMT (16:42 CEST) spacecraft time tomorrow.
For separation, releasing a 577-kg lander will make TGO wobble. This could affect the very sensitive antenna pointing needed to ensure a full data link, so mission controllers will monitor progress only via the basic radio carrier signal, with the signal acting like a beacon. The separation wobble will be visible in the Doppler data associated with the carrier signal. With a one-way signal time of about 9 min and 45 secs, mission controllers will see a first indication of progress around 16:52 CEST. A full confirmation will come later (around 17:15 CEST) once controllers re-establish the full data link with the spacecraft.
18:35 CEST: Our coverage of separation on Sunday, 16 October, set for 14:42 GMT (16:42 CEST) spacecraft time, will begin a bit earlier than previously announced. You can watch a live webstream from ESA's mission control centre, Darmstadt, Germany, starting at 16:30 CEST.
14:05 CEST: The final pre-arrival orbit correction manoeuvre that took place at 10:45 CEST went very well. This burn was the last push needed to perfectly line TGO up on the right orbit to deliver Schiaparelli onto the surface three days after separation on Sunday. Flight Director Michel Denis reports a very tiny overperformance from TGO's thrusters, but the burn was overall very good. The next manoeuvre is scheduled for 12 hours after separation, at 04:42 CEST on 17 October, and will raise TGO's orbit above the planet.
10:25 CEST: This morning, the final pre-arrival team briefing was held at ESOC for everyone involved in ExoMars. Teams at ESTEC and from industry listened in via audio conference. The briefing was held to review and confirm readiness for separation on 16 October and arrival at Mars on 19 October. ExoMars/TGO orbiter and Schiaparelli demonstration lander health/status? Both GO for arrival. Schiaparelli is GO for entry, descent, landing and surface operations. TGO is GO for Mars orbit insertion. At our ESOC mission control centre: Simulation training complete; teams from Flight Dynamics, Flight Control, the ESA ground stations, networks and systems are all GO. NASA ground stations have also confirmed readiness to support. ESA's ExoMars Project Manager Don McCoy said: "People have put their hearts and souls into this. We're ready to go. Thank you to everyone."
08:50 CEST: This morning at 08:45 GMT (10:45 CEST) ExoMars/TGO will conduct the final orbit correction manoeuvre before separation on 16 October. The manoeuvre means that TGO's thrusters will be fired for a minute or so to deliver a change in speed and direction of just 1.4 cm/second. This burn will refine the already highly accurate orbit, and line TGO up to deliver Schiaparelli on to its intended landing site on Mars.
A full-size model of the ExoMars entry, descent and landing module, Schiaparelli, with its parachute deployed was revealed on ESA’s open day last Sunday in the Netherlands.
Weighing 600 kg, Schiaparelli is part of the joint ESA–Roscosmos ExoMars mission that will arrive at the Red Planet on 19 October. It will demonstrate Europe’s technology for a controlled landing on Mars, including the 12 m-diameter parachute.
The landing will take about six minutes, with the canopy deploying at a speed of 1700 km/h. In less than two minutes the parachute will slow the lander down to 240 km/h before being jettisoned at around 1 km above the surface.
Thrusters will then begin firing to control the probe’s speed, with the surface contact cushioned by a crushable structure on the underside of the module.
The module is housed inside the descent capsule in this picture – the rear cover and heatshield are discarded during descent.
Although it is on display, the ExoMars teams need to access the engineering model for diagnostics or checks because it is a replica of the module flying to Mars.
"Show Down" - am Mittwoch, den 19. Oktober 2016 um 18:20 Uhr mitteleuropäischer Sommerzeit wird es soweit sein: Alle Augen werden für die ExoMars-Landung auf den Hauptkontrollraum des Europäischen Raumfahrtkontrollzentrums ESA/ESOC in Darmstadt gerichtet sein.
An der Technischen Universität Darmstadt findet dazu eine öffentliche Informationsveranstaltung mit Live-Schaltungen ins ESOC statt.
Die erste Raumsonde des Zwillingsgespanns ExoMars wird in den Mars-Orbit einschwenken und die Landekapsel "Schiaparelli" wird ihren turbulenten Flug durch die Marsatmosphäre beendet haben. In diesen Minuten werden alle gespannt auf die Funksignale der Sonde warten, welche die erste erfolgreiche Landung Europas auf dem Nachbarplaneten bestätigen sollen. Nach der erfolgreichen Landung von Schiaparelli und systematischen Messungen der ExoMars-Muttersonde aus dem Marsorbit wird dann 2020 das zweite Element der Zwillingsmission auf dem Mars spannende Untersuchungen unternehmen: Ein Rover soll dann erstmals Proben aus der Tiefe des Marsbodens entnehmen und vor Ort analysieren.
ExoMars sucht nach Spuren von Leben auf dem Mars, welche man ausschließlich unterhalb der Marsoberfläche erwartet. Die Mission soll ein weiteres Mosaiksteinchen liefern für die Beantwortung einer der großen Frage der Menschheit: Wo kommt das Leben her? Ist es auf der Erde entstanden? Welche Bedeutung hat der Mars im Hinblick auf die Entstehung und Verbreitung des Lebens in unserem Sonnensystem? Am 19. Oktober findet nun der Auftakt zu der spektakulären Mission mit der Landung des Schiaparelli-Moduls auf dem Mars statt. Gesteuert wird die Raumfahrtmission vom Raumfahrtkontrollzentrum der ESA (ESOC) in Darmstadt.
Im Rahmen der Kooperation zwischen TU Darmstadt und ESOC findet in der Maschinenhalle der Universität (S1|05, 122) eine öffentliche Informations- und Diskussionsveranstaltung parallel zur formellen ESA-Veranstaltung am Kontrollzentrum ESOC statt. Studierende der TU und auch interessierte, externe Besucher können den Fortschritt der Mission in Live-Schaltungen aus dem berühmten Hauptkontrollraum des ESOC mitverfolgen, und Fachleute der ESA informieren per Videoschaltung über die wissenschaftlichen und technischen Hintergründe der äußerst anspruchsvollen Mission. Den Rahmen der Veranstaltung bildet jedoch ein hochwertiges Informationsprogramm speziell für Angehörige der Universität (Studierende, Wissenschaftler, Professoren) und externe, naturwissenschaftlich interessierte Gäste. Experten der ESA führen ein in Aufgaben und Tätigkeiten der ESA und von ESA/ESOC in Darmstadt und informieren über Möglichkeiten für Studierende und TU-Absolventen für Ausbildung und Karriere bei der ESA. Weiterhin berichten Studierende selbst über ihre Erfahrungen bei studentischen/akademischen Arbeiten mit der ESA, und schliesslich werden "Cool Topics", interessante technisch/wissenschaftliche Themen aus dem Kooperationsbereich ESA/TU vorgestellt.
Das Angebot richtet sich an alle Angehörigen der TU Darmstadt, aber auch an externe Gäste. Eine Voranmeldung ist nicht erforderlich.