The most expected joint project of Russian and European scientists has finally started. On Monday morning, the rocket that is to deliver research modules to Mars was launched from the Baikonur space launch site.
The main task of the modules is to get an answer to the question of whether any life on Mars exists. Scientists hope that they will find methane in the Red Planet's atmosphere, which can confirm the existence of life on Mars.
This is the main aim of the current mission. If the presence of methane produced by microorganisms is discovered, the UK space rover will be sent to Mars in order to drill the planet’s surface.
The second stage of the ExoMars expedition can take place in 2018, although according to scientists, it is more probably to happen in 2020.
The Russian Proton-M carrier rocket will deliver the spacecraft to Mars. It consists of two units – Trace Gas Orbiter module (TGO) and Schiaparelli ground module.
The carrier rocket will need more than 10 hours to direct the spacecraft to the proper trajectory, leading to Mars. This involves motor switching of the Proton-M, which will provide the speed of 33 thousand kilometers per hour.
It is expected that the flight mission to the Red Planet will take about 7 months. On October 16, Schiaparelli is planned to be detached from the TGO, after which it will enter Martian atmosphere three days later.
The main goal of the scientists is to see how well the module’s radar and computers perform, checking all the algorithms. All the corrections will be taken into account and improved before the launch of the rover during the second stage of ExoMars project.
A major part of methane in the Earth’s atmosphere was formed as a result of life activity. However, the Martian methane could be both of volcanic and biological origin. If the biological origin of the methane is proved, it will be possible to confirm that the Red Planet is alive.