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ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter and Schiaparelli lander travel safely to Baikonur

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla

28-12-2015 15:14 CST

Topics: mission status, ExoMars TGO

Europe's second mission to Mars has begun its journey from its birthplace in Cannes to its planned arrival at Mars on October 19. Since December 17 we've been able to watch every step of its journey, thanks to a stream of tweets from Albert Haldemann. He is overseeing the spacecraft's assembly, integration, and verification, and closely monitored the three Antonov trips between Turin and Baikonur required to transport ExoMars and all its equipment, traveling on the third one. Tweeting from Baikonur was technical operations officer Remy van Haarlem. I've Storified their tweets here, but include a few highlights below.

I'll condense his next few tweets into paragraph form:

Wide load trucks are "convoi exceptionnel" and in France are allowed to travel after midnight. But the highway between Cannes and Turin via Savona is has major roadworks at night and would close, so @ESA_Exomars could leave at 19:00. At 21:00 a truck caught fire in a tunnel on the hwy from Savona to Turin---not @ESA_Exomars truck thank goodness...but stopped traffic. Lead vehicles w/ Thales personnel warned @ESA_Exomars trucks (going slower), so they left the hwy and took the old road over the pass. Then, past Mondevi, A6 hwy was thick with pea soup fog banks...and @ESA_Exomars trucks slowed further...arrived 05:00.

Here's a neat video of the Antonov arriving and being unloaded in Baikonur:

But I think this video is my favorite:

Check out the Storify for all the rest of the journey!

ExoMars is a complex program that consists of multiple spacecraft that will be launched in the next two Mars opportunities in March 2016 and May 2018. The 2016 launch includes the Trace Gas Orbiter (inevitably abbreviated "TGO") and an experimental landing module named Schiaparelli. Without solar power, Schiaparelli will last only 2 to 4 days after landing, and has limited science capability; it has a descent camera but no capability to take photos once on the surface. Its main purpose is to demonstrate the technologies that will be necessary to land the 2018 ExoMars rover and lander mission. Trace Gas Orbiter's science package will follow up on Mars Express' methane detections, study atmospheric chemistry, and improve on Mars Express' stereo imaging and Mars Odyssey's neutron mapping to locate subsurface ice. After the 2018 mission lands, Trace Gas Orbiter will serve as its primary communications relay.

I'm very grateful to Haldemann and van Haarlem for permitting us this detailed view into ExoMars' journey across Europe and into Asia, and I wish them and the rest of the ExoMars team a prosperous new year of Marsward travel!

See other posts from December 2015


Or read more blog entries about: mission status, ExoMars TGO


croald: 12/28/2015 10:16 CST

What was the climate control box for? Surely anything being sent to Mars is freeze-proof. Or was there some danger of something overheating (in December)?

kato: 12/29/2015 04:00 CST

The climate control is for the mobile cleanroom for Schiaparelli. Baikonur doesn't have one suitable for Mars surface missions, so they're bringing their own and setting it up there for the next three months.

Bryan See: 12/29/2015 09:47 CST

Can't wait for the exciting launch in March 2016, but I hope it will be doomed or successful. While ExoMars is pretty exciting, but what the hell happened to the LIFE Project? We haven't heard of its team since 2012, and I fear they have been softly disbanded. I'm sorry to hear this, but Alexander Zakharov, the team member, is an immortal criminal and a foreign agent, who may have involved in the embezzlement of the funds for the failed Phobos-Grunt space mission. You aren't aware that President Vladimir Putin is going to name this NGO (The Planetary Society) as a foreign agent, banning its activities in Russia. The LIFE Project, and by extension Phobos-Grunt, is a morally corrupt, but Russia-destroying project started by spies. Speaking of the Space Research Institute (IKI) of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS), the main organization behind Phobos-Grunt, whose engineering team was sacked along with all who were older than 45 at NPO Lavochkin by chief designer Georgy Polishchuk, is facing a drastic government reform that has met with more resistance from academicians who want to retain all of the old for eternity, and scandals of corruption, exposed by Vera Mysina and Alexei Navalny. Corruption that has prevalent in RAS, but also Prosecutor General Yury Chaika, and even the Kremlin itself. The RAS itself has subjected to documentary checks, as does Chaika two years after, in a 50-minute documentary style "Diagnostics of RAS", aired by Ren TV in September 2013. However, the academy and its institutes, IKI included, have made threats and physical attacks on critics, and continue to be surrounded by criminals, just like Putin himself. To me, organized crime is what makes negligence rampant, and yet, Putin and RAS President Vladimir Fortov have done nothing to promote this activity.

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