The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, a Russian-launched, European-built spacecraft that arrived at Mars in October, is starting to dip into the upper reaches of the red planet’s atmosphere in a year-long “aerobraking” campaign place the observatory in the right position to hunt for methane, an indicator of potential biological activity.
Live coverage of the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter and the Schiaparelli lander arriving at Mars. Text updates will appear automatically below; there is no need to reload the page. Follow us on Twitter.
A European spacecraft cruising toward Mars fired its main engine, tweaking its trajectory and helping set up for carefully-choreographed simultaneous maneuvers to place part of the tandem mission into orbit around the red planet and deposit a stationary battery-powered lander on the Martian surface.
On 14 March, the ExoMars spacecraft and Schiaparelli lander were lofted into orbit by a Proton rocket, starting a seven-month journey to the Red Planet. For the ExoMars launch, ESA’s near-Earth object (NEO) coordination centre in Italy organised a successful international campaign for ground-based optical observations of the departing spacecraft.