ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter completes aerobraking


Since arriving at Mars in October 2016, the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter has been aerobraking its way into a close orbit of the Red Planet by using the top of the atmosphere to create drag and slow down. It is almost in the right orbit to begin observations – only a few hundred kilometres to go! With aerobraking complete, additional manoeuvres will bring the craft into a near-circular two-hour orbit, about 400 km above the planet, by the end of April. The mission’s main goal is to take a detailed inventory of the atmosphere, sniffing out gases like methane, which may be an indicator of active geological or biological activity. The camera will help to identify surface features that may be related to gas emissions. The spacecraft will also look for water-ice hidden below the surface, which could influence the choice of landing sites for future exploration. It will also relay large volumes of science data from NASA’s rovers on the surface back to Earth and from the ESA–Roscosmos ExoMars rover, which is planned for launch in 2020.

Visit our website to learn more about ExoMars: https://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/ExoMars

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  1. With the Falcon Heavy future Mars missions won't need to waste a year aerobraking, they can carry enough fuel to do a proper orbital insertion. This is because FH is powerful enough to send a much heavier payload (one with enough fuel) to Mars than any other booster ever has. Only Saturn V could have sent more to Mars, but it never did. I know FH was not available when this gas sniffin Euro probe was launched, but it will be for Europe's 2020 rover mission. But I'm sure you'll just take a 50/50 chance on a Russian Proton.

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