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Mars methane mission set for lift-off

  • Author:angelia
  • Source:www.diecastingpartsupplier.com
  • Release on:2016-03-14
Europe and Russia are about to launch a joint mission to the Red Planet.

A Proton rocket is going hurl a satellite to Mars to investigate whether the methane in its atmosphere is coming from a geological source or is being produced by microbes.

If all goes well, the two space powers expect to follow up this venture with a rover, to be assembled in the UK, which will drill into the surface.

That could launch in 2018, or, as seems increasingly likely, in 2020.

The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) is primed to lift off from the famous Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 15:31 local time (09:31 GMT) on Monday.

It will take the carrier rocket more than 10 hours to put the satellite on the right trajectory to go to Mars.

This involves a series engine burns on the Proton’s Breeze upper-stage that should eventually fling the TGO away from Earth with a relative velocity of 33,000km/h.

The flight sequence is sure to strain the nerves of space agency officials.

For Russia especially, the Red Planet represents a destination of wretched fortune.

It has previously launched 19 missions to the fourth planet from the Sun, and most of those have been outright failures.

Many could not to get off the pad cleanly; others simply stalled above the Earth and fell back down; a few crashed and burned at Mars or sailed straight past.

Assuming everything works out this time, controllers at the European Space Agency’s operations centre in Darmstadt, Germany, can expect a signal from the TGO after it has been released on its way by the Breeze boost stage.

This should come through at 21:28 GMT. It is then a seven-month cruise to Mars.

Three days out from arrival, on 16 October, the satellite will eject a small landing module known as Schiaparelli.

Once on the surface, on 19 October, its aim is to operate a few science instruments, but engineers are primarily interested to see how the module performs during the entry, descent and touchdown.

In particular, Schiaparelli will showcase a suite of technologies - radar, computers and their algorithms - that will be needed to put a later, British-built rover safely on the planet.

This second step in the joint European-Russian ExoMars project is supposed to leave Earth in 2018, although this is now looking increasingly doubtful because of funding and scheduling issues.

Many connected with ExoMars are now talking about 2020 as being a more realistic launch date.

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