Everything You Need To Know About The Mission To Mars
Less than a year after NASA confirmed that there was “briny” water flowing on Mars’ surface, the European Space Agency and Roscosmos has launched the first tier of ExoMars, one of the most ambitious missions to Mars yet. With two separate launches, a bunch of doodads, and a scheduled runtime until 2022, the mission should give globe-locked terrestrials their best look yet at their soon-to-be vacation spot.
The rocket launched early this morning from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, with two spacecraft in tow. The first craft, the Trace Gas Orbiter, is a satellite meant to map out methane deposits on Mars’ surface. Evidence of methane on Mars has long confused scientists–is the gas’s presence evidence of living organisms on Mars? Is it from leftover leakage by a previous rover mission to Mars? Is it space cows? The answer is still out there.
— ESA (@esa) March 14, 2016
After the orbiter helps scientists pick out a suitable, methane-rich landing spot, the secondary spacecraft, the Schiaparelli Lander, will briefly touch down in order to conduct further tests. Named after the 19th century astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli, who hypothesized the existence of water channels on Mars (and was cousins with fashionista Elsa Schiaparelli), the spacecraft will assess the meteorology of the surface in anticipation of the second mission, scheduled to disembark in 2018.
Eventually, the mission will include its own Mars rover and a robot-operated science lab, all to further our understanding of Mars as a potential habitat. Scientists are eager to find out whether Mars can support life–in past, future, or present–so we’re all looking to the skies with greedy eyes. After NASA nearly folded, we worried that space exploration would drift away as helplessly as Gravity-era Sandra Bullock, but luckily the scope of international efforts seem to have redoubled humanity’s efforts. ExoMars is set to enter Mars’ orbit in October, but we can start pinching pennies for our Mars retirement plan today.
Images via VEVO, Giphy, The Telegraph.
Stay tuned to Milk for more Mars roving.