The first of two joint ESA–Roscosmos missions to Mars has begun a seven-month journey to the Red Planet, where it will address unsolved mysteries of the planet’s atmosphere that could indicate present-day geological – or even biological – activity. Yesterday evening, the signals from the spacecraft, received at ESA’s control centre in Darmstadt, Germany at 21:29 GMT (22:29 CET), confirmed that the launch was successful and the spacecraft is in good health.
The Trace Gas Orbiter and the Schiaparelli entry, descent and landing demonstrator lifted off on a Proton-M rocket operated by Russia’s Roscosmos at 09:31 GMT (10:31 CET) this morning from Baikonur, Kazakhstan. Following separation of Proton’s first and second stages, the payload fairing was released. The third stage separated nearly 10 minutes after liftoff.
The Breeze-M upper stage, with ExoMars attached, then completed a series of four burns before the spacecraft was released at 20:13 GMT (21:13 CET).
The orbiter’s solar wings have also now unfolded and the craft is on its way to Mars.
The Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) and Schiaparelli will travel to Mars together before separating on 16 October at distance of 900 000 km from the planet. Then, on 19 October, Schiaparelli will enter the martian atmosphere, descending to the surface in just under six minutes.
Learn more about ExoMars on: www.esa.int