1 This morning we saw the first launch of the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) and the Schiaparelli lander:
— ESA (@esa) March 14, 2016
2 The TGO is an unmanned probe being sent to Mars to search for traces of life on the planet, including methane gas.
3 The Trace Gas Orbiter has been dubbed “a giant nose in the sky” by Jorge Vago, a project scientist on the ExoMars mission.
4 The launch of a proton rocket carrying the probe took place this morning at 9.30am, at Baikonur, Kazakhstan.
— ESA Operations (@esaoperations) March 14, 2016
5. It will take slightly more than 10 hours for the rocket to launch the TGO on their trajectory towards Mars.
6 It will then take the TGO seven months to travel 308 million miles to reach Mars. It should reach the red planet on 19 October of this year.
7 Once the TGO reaches Mars, it will enter the planet’s orbit and release the lander Schiaparelli to descend down to the surface of the planet.
8 The lander has been named after Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli, who mapped the surface of the planet during the 19th century and has craters on the planet also baring his name.
9 The lander will approach Mars at 21 000 km an hour, before braking to less than 15 km and hour to land safely at its landing site, the Meridiani Planum, near the equator.
10 Schiaparelli will take readings from its immediate environment, which are expected to be especially dusty as the lander will arrive during the period when dust storms are prevalent.
11 The launch of the TGO and its lander are just the first part of the ExoMars mission to find out if there could be life on Mars.
12 For the second part of the ExoMars mission, a rover equipped with a drill will be sent to Mars in 2018, to find out if there is microbial life beneath the surface of the planet.
13 We’re already pretty certain there is methane on Mars: the Mars Express orbiter detected methane gas on the planet in 2004, and in 2014, Nasa’s Curiosity rover also detected spikes in levels of the gas from the planet’s surface.
14 This is the first time Britain has funded a project to Mars since the failed Beagle 2 lander mission – the lander’s solar panels failed to deploy after reaching the surface of the planet, rendering it unable to communicate.
15 Failures in missions to mars are common, and are sometimes referred to as the Mars Curse. Only 19 missions to the red planet out of 38 have been considered successful…
We wish good luck to everyone involved with the ExoMars mission.
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