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A new world of European space exploration unfolding?

Schiaparelli separating from trace gas orbiter

Establishing if life ever existed on Mars is one of the outstanding scientific questions of our time. To address this, the European Space Agency (ESA) has been working in the ExoMars programme. This programme is a joint endeavour between ESA and the Russian space agency, Roscosmos.

The programme comprises two missions. The first will be launched in March 2016 and consists of the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) and Schiaparelli, an entry, descent and landing demonstrator module. The second is planned for launch in 2018 and comprises a rover and surface science platform. TGO’s main objectives are to search for evidence of methane and other trace atmospheric gases that could be signatures of active biological or geological processes. Schiaparelli will test key technologies in preparation for ESA's contribution to subsequent missions to Mars.

Coinciding with the launching of the ExoMars programme, ESA has produced a set of exhibition panels under the name of Life on Mars that can be downloaded here. The set comprises seven panels and one backdrop giving an overview of ExoMars. If you are not lucky enough to follow it from a science centre (among others la Cité de l'Espace is going to open exceptionally on Monday to follow it live), you will be able to follow it on the ESA website. This programme will also be the opportunity for other Science centres to complement the available programmes (such as the one of Ciudad de las Artes y de las Ciencias).

The launch is scheduled for Monday, 14 March, at 09:31 UTC (10:31 CET), with first acquisition of signal expected at around 21:29 UTC (22:29 CET).


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The Space Group improves and extends communication about space science by helping science centres, space professionals and non-specialists to develop collaborative projects and events.