The first phase of ExoMars, an uncrewed Mars mission from the European Space Agency (ESA), successfully launched today from Baikonur, Kazakhstan. Lifting off on a Russian Proton-M rocket, the Mars-bound spacecraft has begun its 7 month, 300 million mile long journey and is scheduled to arrive in October.
— @ESA_ExoMars (@ESA_ExoMars) March 15, 2016
The objective of today’s mission is to search for evidence of life on Mars, active geological processes, and to test key technologies required for subsequent Mars missions.
ExoMars is made up of 2 phases. Today’s launch brought along 2 different modules that make up the first phase: the Trace Gas Orbiter and the Entry, Descent and Landing Demonstrator Module known as “Schiaparelli.” ExoMars Phase 2 will launch in 2018 and includes a rover designed to conduct exobiology and geochemistry research.
Upon arrival to Mars on October 16th, the Trace Gas Orbiter will separate from Schiaparelli. Three days later, on October 19th, Schiaparelli will begin its descent and attempt to land on the surface. After touching down, Schiaparelli will use the Trace Gas Orbiter as a relay to communicate with the ExoMars team back on Earth.