Although Schiaparelli may have landed with a more definite boom than it was intended to, ExoMars’s project is not lost as the TGO continues its mission and will help gather new information about the Red Planet.
As the much-expected landing of the Schiaparelli was met with an untimely end, the project’s scientists have not been deterred from their mission to explore and better understand our neighboring planet.
The exact cause of the lander’s crash has yet to be established, but the agency has stated its belief that the most probable reason comes from a failure in the parachute system. According to their preliminary analysis, the parachutes seem to have been ejected earlier than expected.
Still, the objectives of the joint mission can still be met as the TGO has successfully established an orbit and even Schiaparelli managed to send some of its gathered data before the center lost contact with it a minute before its crashing.
The TGO, or Trace Gas Orbiter, is the European-Russian constructed orbiter which was launched together, and had been carrying the Schiaparelli before it detached in order to land on Mars.
On the same Wednesday, the orbiter did meet with a successful placement as it managed to establish an orbit around the Red Planet, at a distance of about 170 million kilometers from Earth.
TGO’s mission is to search for and analyze the Red Planet’s atmospheric gasses so as to find any possible traces of living organisms. It will be looking to detect any gasses that may have been excreted by living organisms such as methane.
Methane, which is held in close relation to life on Earth, could come to represent the existence of life on Mars. If traces of the gas are to be found, they would entail two most probable options.
One would be the presence some many million years ago of micro-organisms which have since then become extinct but whose traces have been frozen and are under the Martian surface terrain.
The second possibility would be more encouraging as it would mean that a sort of methane-producing organisms are still alive on Mars.
Any such traces are highly looked for as the TGO will be joining an already existing spacecraft fleet with similar missions.
The Trace Gas Orbiter should operate for another few years as it is supposed to end its mission in 2020, by which time a number of more orbiters and machinery will have probably joined in TGO’s quest of finding life on Mars.
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