Martian Chronicles: getting on a course to rendez-vous with Mars
76 days to the separation of Schiaparelli from the Trace Gas Orbiter, 79 days to the landing at Meridiani Planum on Mars, 335,476,114 km km the total heliocentric distance traveled since launch. It’s really a crucial point in the seven-months journey of the ExoMars 2016 probe and now that the road to the Red Planet is clear and “correct”, dreams of all the Space exploration geeks and aficionados are coming true. In fact ExoMars/TGO performed successfully one of the most important activities during its journey to Mars: the DSM (Deep Space Manouvre), a major manouvre to guide the craft’s trajectory toward the Planet.
The orbiter has already sent messages back to Earth and in May successfully passed a complete functionality review, confirming that all systems are ”go”. On June 16 a first photo of the Red Planet taken by the probe was viewed with awe around the world. A week later the EDM instruments underwent a mid-trajectory review, passing with flying colors.
Emotions are running high as everyone is already waiting with baited breath for the “grand finale” of the ExoMars 2016 mission on October 19, 2016, when the Schiaparelli descent module will land on Mars, after the separation from TGO on 16 October.
Small trajectory correction burns are planned for August and September and in the weeks before arrival at Mars to use the orbiter to precisely aim the Schiaparelli lander toward its touchdown target in Meridiani Planum, a flat plain near the Martian equator.
Since the sixties, there have been numerous missions launched into space by both Russians and Americans, which between the 70s and 80s, led to the first reliable data on the Martian surface. After the Mars Express Mission in 2003, Europe "returns" to the Red Planet with this mission promoted by the European Space Agency, in collaboration with Roscosmos (the Russian Space Agency) to investigate the geochemical and geophysical characterisation of the planet, identify possible risks associated with future human missions, as well as to search for traces of past and present life on the Martian surface.
The ExoMars 2020 mission will aim to land an innovative vehicle on the Red Planet equipped with instruments to analyse Martian soil and capable of moving on the planet’s surface.