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The joint ESA/Russian ExoMars programme took a huge step yesterday when the mission’s Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) successfully conducted a manoeuvre to be captured by Mars.
However, the mission’s Schiaparelli lander, which separated from the orbiter a few days ago to land on Mars, hasn’t made any communication yet.
“TGO’s Mars orbit Insertion burn lasted from 13:05 to 15:24 GMT on 19 October, reducing the spacecraft’s speed and direction by more than 1.5 km/s,” the ESA said on its website.
“The ESOC teams are trying to confirm contact with the Entry, Descent & Landing Demonstrator Module (EDM), Schiaparelli, which entered the Martian atmosphere some 107 minutes after TGO started its own orbit insertion manoeuvre,” the agency added.
The ExoMars mission is the first of two missions to Mars
The last contact with the lander was made shortly before it entered the Martian atmosphere. However, Martian orbiters will be listening to signals from the lander.
“If Schiaparelli reached the surface safely, its batteries should be able to support operations for three to ten days, offering multiple opportunities to re-establish a communication link.”
This won’t be the last ExoMars mission however, as Russia and the ESA are due to launch another one in 2020, comprised of a European probe and a Russian lander. The lander will dig down up to two metres to search for “pristine” organic material.