ExoMars mission in toenails to launch in September

The European Space Agency (ESA) announced on Wednesday that the European robot for the future ExoMars space mission, which will drill deep into Martian soil, is “ready” for liftoff in September 2022.

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The Russian-European space programme, initially scheduled for 2020, had to be postponed to 2022 due to the Covid-19 pandemic and technical difficulties.

The European Agency specified in a press release that “all instruments” of the ESA’s Rosalind Franklin rover are “ready for liftoff, and there are a few minor modifications to be completed this month.”

“We are confident we will be there for the launch in September,” says Pietro Baglioni, rover team leader. It will be dropped on Mars with the Russian “Kazatchok” lander.

Parachute tests, which were carried out in November and December at high altitudes, were especially successful. This is an essential step to ensure a smooth arrival to the Red Planet.

In addition, a replica of the rover “for the first time successfully descended from its landing pad” during simulations, according to the European Space Agency.

The descent of the robot constitutes a “critical process”, which must take place “extremely slowly”. The vehicle is designed to overcome the steep incline of the descents, “but it is up to the control team on the ground to choose the safest slope” to descend.

The Rosalind Franklin rover and lander are now installed in a clean room at the Thales Alenia Space in Turin (Italy). After a final review in April, they will be moved to their launch site in Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

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The ExoMars rover is designed to dig into Martian soil up to two metres: deep enough to get to any organic matter, which will be well preserved for 4 billion years.

At the time, Mars looked more like Earth than it is today, under conditions that could support life and give hope for discovering traces of ancient microbial life.

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