October 17, 2016

ExoMars mission: Europe all set to land on Mars

Wednesday 19 October, the ExoMars 2016 mission will insert its Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) into orbit around the red planet and release its Schiaparelli lander demonstrator for a controlled descent to the surface.

Launched on 14 March 2016 from Baikonur, ExoMars is a joint mission of the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Russian federal space agency Roscosmos. The mission comprises a Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) and the Schiaparelli entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, named after the Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli.

TGO will begin by making a detailed inventory of Mars’ atmospheric gases, focusing in particular on rare gases like methane which, if detected, would imply 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 circularize its orbit. It will also serve as a communications relay for later surface operations of the ExoMars 2020 rover.

Schiaparelli separated from TGO Sunday 16 October and is set to enter Mars’ atmosphere Wednesday 19 October for a six-minute descent to a region in Meridiani Planum. It will test a range of technologies designed 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 is also carrying 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.

Contribution of CNES and French research laboratories
CNES is providing some 15% of the funds for this optional ESA programme as well as technical contributions and scientific instruments. For the 2016 mission, CNES worked with ESA on the entry, descent and landing phase and supplied the ICOTOM sensor on Schiaparelli. French research laboratories are contributing to the instruments and to analysis of science data from TGO and Schiaparelli.

CNES and French research laboratories will also be supplying two instruments for the 2020 mission’s rover: MicroOmega, a spectrometer capable of imaging in the visible and infrared, and WISDOM, a radar to study and characterize the structure of the subsoil. France is also contributing to three other instruments—MOMA, RLS and CLUPI—being developed by other ESA member nations. Lastly, CNES is supplying visual navigation software for the 2020 rover.

Contribution of Thales Alenia Space
Thales Alenia Space is the programme prime contractor for ESA, heading an industrial consortium of 74 companies in 17 countries. It designed and integrated TGO at its Cannes facility, the entry and descent module (EDM) at its Turin facility, and coordinated the supply of numerous subsystems from European and French firms.

ExoMars separation and landing operations timeline for Wednesday 19 October:
15:00    TGO orbit insertion
16:42    Entry of Schiaparelli into Mars’ atmosphere
17:00    Confirmation signal from Schiaparelli
18:45    Signal transmission by Mars Express
20:00    First pass of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and transmission of landing signal from Schiaparelli

CNES public and press event
You can watch the event with commentaries from ExoMars 2016 mission scientists at:

The Cité de l’espace, Toulouse, from 17:15 to 20:45 (http://www.cite-espace.com/)
17:15     Doors open
17:30     Welcome address
17:45     Start of live ESA and CNES broadcasts
    18:30    Attempt to receive signal from TGO by Mars Express
    20:00    First pass of MRO and transmission of landing signal
    20:30    Confirmation of landing signal
20:45    End of event

The event will be mediated by Michel Viso (CNES) and Philippe Droneau (Cité de l’espace).
CNES and ESA engineers, planetologists, geologists, astrophysicists and industry representatives will be on hand to take questions throughout.

An event will also be organized in Paris at the Forum Armand-Peugeot, Poissy, from 14:15 to 22:00 by Gilles Dawidowicz, Jean-Pierre Martin (SAF) and Francis Rocard (CNES).
Entrance is free but pre-registration is required at http://exomars.gpseo.fr

The event at the Cité de L’espace will be streamed live at :

More about the mission at https://exomars.cnes.fr/

Pascale Bresson    Tel. +33 (0)1 44 76 75 39    pascale.bresson@cnes.fr
Julien Watelet    Tel. +33 (0)1 44 76 78 37    julien.watelet@cnes.fr