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ESA’s Mars Mission Set To Look For Signs Of Life


Video Source: AP NewsRoom
[European Space Agency (ESA)]
Length: 3:12

Darmstadt, Germany – April 2018

1. Close of office window at ESA’s European Space Operations Centre (ESOC)

2. Various of Michel Denis, ExoMars Flight Operations Director, European Space Agency (ESA), working with colleague in control room

COURTESY EUROPEAN SPACE AGENCY (ESA)

3. Animation of ExoMars orbit

COURTESY EUROPEAN SPACE AGENCY (ESA)

Darmstadt, Germany – April 2018

4. SOUNDBITE (English) Michel Denis, ExoMars Flight Operations Director, European Space Agency (ESA):

++PART OVERLAID BY SHOTS 3 AND 5++

“I’m looking forward to the next few months enormously because the TGO (trace gas orbiter) will finally be able to show its full capability, the full capability of its instruments, in terms of accuracy, and quantity, and quality of data, pictures, spectra. And also, because we will be able to do start joint observations with our previous spacecraft at Mars, Mars Express.”

COURTESY EUROPEAN SPACE AGENCY (ESA)

5. Animated STILL of Mars’ Korolev Crater taken by ExoMars

6. Animation of Mars

COURTESY NASA

7. POV view of Mars from Curiosity rover

COURTESY EUROPEAN SPACE AGENCY (ESA)

Noordwijk, Netherlands – May 2018

8. SOUNDBITE (English) Hakan Svedhem, Trace Gas Orbiter Project Scientist, European Space Agency (ESA):

++PART OVERLAID BY PREVIOUS SHOT++

“We know that the lifetime of methane is very short – just a few hundred years – it will be broken down by the sunlight, by the UV, ultraviolet component of the sunlight. So, if it is there now, we know it has to be refilled all the time. And where does it come from? That’s the big question.”

COURTESY EUROPEAN SPACE AGENCY (ESA)

9. Animation of Mars

10. Animation of ExoMars Rover drilling

COURTESY EUROPEAN SPACE AGENCY (ESA)

Darmstadt, Germany – April 2018

11. SOUNDBITE (English) Michel Denis, ExoMars Flight Operations Director, European Space Agency (ESA):

++PART OVERLAID BY PREVIOUS SHOT++

“The so-called relay function allows us to communicate with all landers and rovers on the surface of Mars. At the moment, there are only rovers and landers from NASA – Curiosity and Opportunity. Some tests had been done already soon after arrival at Mars and now we are going to start a campaign to calibrate and determine the best performance to relay data.”

COURTESY EUROPEAN SPACE AGENCY (ESA)

Noordwijk, Netherlands – May 2018

12. Various of Svedhem inspecting rover model in Mars Yard at the European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC)

13. SOUNDBITE (English) Hakan Svedhem, Trace Gas Orbiter Project Scientist, European Space Agency (ESA):

“Mars, of course, has this very special thing, it’s actually a place that you can imagine yourself walking on. Eventually within not too far in the future, surely people will be walking on Mars, that makes it very exciting. And then, to think about this idea that there might have been some kind of life or even exists today underground on Mars. That makes it a very special place.”

14. Close of rover model

LEADIN:

The European Space Agency’s ExoMars mission is ready to begin probing the atmosphere of Mars, looking for signs of life.

ESA is hoping its Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) fairs better than its Schiaparelli lander, which crashed on the Martian surface during an attempted landing in October 2016.

STORYLINE:

At ESA’s Planetary Mission Control Room in Darmstadt, Germany, scientists are busily preparing for the next stage of the ExoMars mission.

Having arrived at the Red Planet in October 2016, the Trace Gas Orbiter has been gradually adjusting its orbit.

The spacecraft has now descended to an altitude of about 400 kilometres (250 miles) and is ready to begin its study of Mars.

“I’m looking forward to the next few months enormously because the TGO (trace gas orbiter) will finally be able to show its full capability, the full capability of its instruments, in terms of accuracy, and quantity, and quality of data, pictures, spectra,” says flight operations director Michel Denis.

“And also, because we will be able to do start joint observations with our previous spacecraft at Mars, Mars Express.”

The TGO’s primary mission is to identify gases in the Martian atmosphere, particularly the scientifically tantalising methane.

In 2014, NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover detected spikes of methane in the planet’s atmosphere.

Most of Earth’s atmospheric methane comes from animal and plant life, and the environment itself.

So Martian methane raises the question of past or present microbial life.

Or the gas elevations could come from geological sources, comet impacts or something else entirely.

“We know that the lifetime of methane is very short – just a few hundred years – it will be broken down by the sunlight, by the UV, ultraviolet component of the sunlight,” says project scientist Hakan Svedhem.

“So, if it is there now, we know it has to be refilled all the time. And where does it come from? That’s the big question.”

Scientists hope the TGO’s spectrometer will help them discover whether the methane comes from a geological or biological source.

ESA’s ExoMars 2020 rover – set to arrive at the Red Planet in 2021 – will drill up to two metres beneath the surface to also search for evidence of life.

The orbiter will also act as a radio relay for the next stage of the ExoMars mission and future attempts to land on the planet.

“The so-called relay function allows us to communicate with all landers and rovers on the surface of Mars,” says Denis.

“At the moment, there are only rovers and landers from NASA – Curiosity and Opportunity. Some tests had been done already soon after arrival at Mars and now we are going to start a campaign to calibrate and determine the best performance to relay data.”

ESA scientists hope the work done in the next few months will help pave the way for future manned missions to the Red Planet.

“Mars, of course, has this very special thing, it’s actually a place that you can imagine yourself walking on,” says Svedhem.

“Eventually within not too far in the future, surely people will be walking on Mars, that makes it very exciting.

“And then, to think about this idea that there might have been some kind of life or even exists today underground on Mars. That makes it a very special place.”

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