ESA-RosCosmos ExoMars 2016 Satellite and Lander Searching for Life on Mars

Europe searches for life on Mars: on March 14, 2016 ExoMars spacecraft will start to search on the red planet with so sensitive instruments such as never for clues to life. Seven months the probe for the route to Mars needs.

“If there has ever been a mission that had a real chance to find evidence of life on Mars, then the ExoMars is the one” says Jorge Vago the German press agency. The 53 year old scientist from Argentina belongs to the team ExoMars 2016, a project of the European Space Agency ESA and its Russian partner Roscosmos.

On March 14, from Baikonur in Kazakhstan starts a Russian Proton rocket, which brings a spacecraft on its way to Mars from space station. Trace gas Orbiter analyzed atmosphere in unprecedented quality

ESA-RosCosmosa ExoMars 2016 Satellite and Lander Searching for Life
Building the spacecraft: the lunar module Schiaparelli will detach itself after approximately seven flight time and plunge into the atmosphere – eight times faster than a speeding bullet. Photo: ESA/ATG medialab

The 4.3 ton 2016 ExoMars spacecraft consists of two main parts. The 3.5 m long and 2 m wide trace gas Orbiter (TGO) to dive into the orbit of Mars, two solar cell boom with 17.5 m span ensure energy supply.

Spectrometers and color cameras on board, analyze the surface as well as the chemical composition of the atmosphere in unprecedented quality. “I expect that we demonstrate methane and understand better how it is produced,” says Vago. And enough methane on the Martian soil could allow theoretically even microbial life on the red planet.

Entry into the atmosphere: LEM eight times faster than a speeding bullet

The second main component in 2016 ExoMars is Schiaparelli, a 600 kg Lander with a diameter of 2.4 m. It will disconnect after just under seven flight time by the TGO and move on an own trajectory to the planet. On 19 October the lander should enter into the atmosphere at 5.8 km/s. This corresponds to the approximately eightfold speed of a bullet, calculated the magazine spectrum.

ExoMars TGO & EvDM in vibration test.
ExoMars 2016: The 4.3 ton spacecraft consists of the trace gas Orbiter (TGO) and the lunar module Schiaparelli.
Photo: S. Corvaja / ESA

What happens then? First is brake, Schiaparelli friction from 500 m/s estimated speed. Then opens a parachute, which slows down the lander on around 70 m/s (250 km/h). Then use nine rocket engines that let him float 2 m above the surface.

If they then turn off, Schiaparelli is finally at 18 miles an hour on the ground. That should survive but without prejudice to the module with a plastically deformable structure. And then? Then it goes to big exploration tour to collect experience for the second phase of ExoMars. And it becomes even more exciting.

2018 launches a Rover to Mars

2018 a lander with a Rover aboard the red planet to break. He can drill deep into the soil up to 2 m. By comparison, the U.S. Rover Curiosity creates only a depth of a few centimeters.

And why drill deeper? “We must search for life not only on the surface, but go for it very deep”, declares Vago. “Maybe we are totally lucky and find such great organic samples, we can prove that there was life.” considers the researchers, on the other hand, we never know.