After more than a year’s procedure of inhibition and correction of the orbit of the spacecraft TGO, the launch of which was carried out in the first part of the Russian-European space mission ExoMars, has started its main goal – search in the atmosphere of the red planet traces of methane.
Spacecraft Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) developed by experts of the European space Agency, entered the orbit of Mars on 19 October 2016. The orbital part of the mission “Eczemas” coped with the task, but the demonstration lander “Schiaparelli” was not able to make an emergency landing and crashed on the planet’s surface on the plateau of Meridian near the equator of Mars.
“All the instruments of the probe are working correctly, and we’ve already started the first observations. During deceleration we have the opportunity to improve the algorithms of image compression that uses the camera of the probe. The program was successfully loaded on the machine, and now we have the opportunity to obtain images of the highest quality,” commented Oleg Korablev, one of the co-heads of mission from the space research Institute of RAS.
In addition to the main objective to study the atmosphere of the red planet, the Orbiter TGO will play another important role will be the link between earth and the Curiosity Rover, as well as the new European Rover and landing platform, which will go to Mars in roughly 2020.
About half a year ago Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) began to prepare for atmospheric braking maneuver, in which he used the friction produced during the passage through the upper atmosphere of Mars to slow itself and enter the calculated trajectory. The braking procedure was completed at the end of February, and now the probe officially began scientific work.
Before beginning this procedure, the probe was rotated around Mars on a very elongated orbit, approaching him at a distance of 200 kilometers at its near point and away from it on 98 thousand kilometers. Braking maneuver allowed TGO to take a nearly perfect circular orbit about 400 kilometers, making one revolution around the planet in the unit takes about two hours.
“We were the first to launch such a heavy probe, the heaviest spacecraft ever studied Mars using only the frictional force of the air. We are ready to search for traces of life in its atmosphere. We look forward to the first results of observations of air composition of Mars”, commented the research project TGO Hakan, Svedhem.
The main purpose of the probe remains the same – search for methane in the Martian atmosphere, and measurements of its level, which could indicate the presence of organic substances. In addition, using the apparatus it is planned the creation of maps of the Martian deposits of ice, inside which can be entered into methane and organic remains of Martian microbes.