Category Archives: ExoMars

Name the ExoMars Rover

The UK built ExoMars Rover will launch as part of ESA’s ExoMars Mission. The rover is a mobile laboratory and one of the things it will do is examine the Martian sub-surface for signs of life when it lands in 2021.

It needs a name, not that there is anything wrong with “The ExoMars Rover”, but I think they (all involved with the mission ESA, UK Space Agency, Airbus etc) are looking for something a little more imaginative probably so it wouldn’t clash with the mission name.

It’s all good! I have the PERFECT name and have submitted it. I bet there will be quite a number of the same idea too. I hope so. I won’t tell you what I decided on until the official name is announced.

So go ENTER!

About the contest and ExoMars mission.

ExoMars Readies For a Test

A milestone is being reached by ExoMars rover (a joint effort of ESA and Roscosmos), it is environmental testing. The tests will put the rover through its paces in a simulated Martian environment. The test pretty thorough, that shake test is pretty scary.

A representative model of the ExoMars rover that will land on Mars in 2021 is beginning a demanding test campaign that will ensure it can survive the rigours of launch and landing, as well as operations under the environmental conditions of Mars.

ExoMars is a joint endeavour between ESA and Roscosmos, with the Trace Gas Orbiter already at Mars and beginning its science mission to look for atmospheric gases that may be linked to active geological or biological processes. The orbiter will relay the data collected by the rover back to Earth, a capability already demonstrated with communications relays to NASA’s rovers currently on Mars.

The ExoMars rover will be the first of its kind to drill below the surface – down to 2 m – and determine if evidence of life is buried underground, protected from the destructive radiation that impinges the surface today.

Like any space mission, the rover’s mechanical structure, along with its electrical and thermal components and its interfaces with the scientific instruments, have to be tested to check they can survive their journey in space and operations at the destination.

As such the rover ‘structural and thermal model’ was recently transferred from Airbus Defence and Space in Stevenage, UK, to the Airbus site in Toulouse, France. This week, the model will be shaken on a vibration table to ensure it can survive the intense juddering as the Proton rocket carries it into space.

Furthermore, the rover model will be subjected to the shocks associated with entering another planet’s atmosphere at high speed and as parachutes open, and finally the touchdown onto the Red Planet’s surface.

Two months of thermal tests will follow under Mars atmosphere conditions, to qualify the rover for being able to withstand the frigid temperatures and large daily temperature variations on Mars.

The tests will be conducted in a chamber to simulate the low atmospheric pressure of Mars – less than 1% of Earth’s average sea level pressure – and its carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere. The rover will also need to operate at temperatures down to –120ºC. A closed compartment inside the rover, where martian soil samples will be analysed, will be thermally controlled to maintain temperatures between +20ºC and –40ºC.

The current test campaign is expected to last until the beginning of August 2018. The rover model will then move to Lavochkin, Moscow, where it will be sealed inside a replica descent module and again subjected to vibration, shock and thermal tests.

Another test model will soon start an eight month-long campaign focusing on the rover’s movements and navigation over a variety of different ground types, ranging from fine-grained soil to larger boulders.

The mission will travel to Mars inside an aeroshell, with the rover mounted on a surface science platform. Once safely delivered to the Red Planet’s surface, the landing platform will deploy its solar panels and ramps, and within a few days the rover will drive off the platform and begin its exciting exploration of Mars.

“This campaign kicks off a series of tests that will verify the mechanical and thermal design of the ExoMars rover, essential preparation that brings us a step closer to roving on the Red Planet,” says Pietro Baglioni, ESA ExoMars rover team leader.

Image: via ESA

Phobos and ExoMars


There is also an a red–blue anaglyph image of Phobos composed from the stereo pair acquired by the ExoMars orbiter’s CaSSIS – you’ll need 3D glasses (or some sort of red/blue viewing device.

The ESA caption:
Colour composite of Phobos taken with the ExoMars orbiter’s Colour and Stereo Surface Imaging System (CaSSIS) on 26 November 2016. The observation was made at a distance of 7700 km and yields a resolution of 87 m/pixel.

To create the final colour image, two images were taken through each of the four colour filters of the camera – panchromatic, blue–green, red and infrared – and then stitched together and combined to produce the high-resolution composite.

Two of the colour filters used by CaSSIS lie outside the wavelength response of the human eye, so this is not a ‘true’ colour image. However, showing the data as a colour representation can reveal details of the surface mineralogy. Different colours are clearly seen, with the bluest part in the direction of the large crater Stickney, which is out of view over the limb to the left. Although the exact composition of the material is unknown, the colour differences are thought to be caused by compositional variations on scales of hundreds of metres to several kilometres.

Credit: ExoMars (ESA/Roscosmos/CaSSIS

First Images from CaSSIS

WOW! This collection of high resolution images came from he Mars Camera, CaSSIS (Colour and Stereo Surface Imaging System) on the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter and are among the first to be released.

The CaSSIS was developed by a team from the University of Bern led by Prof. Nicolas Thomas from the Center of Space and Habitability

Video from ESA

Quasars Help Navigating to Mars


How is ESA going to navigate to Mars?  By using quasars of course.

Very cool!!! The inset is explained below BTW.

Image and caption below: Copyright Estrack / ESA/D. Pazos – Quasar P1514-24 inset image: Rami Rekola, Univerity of Turku, 2001

From ESA:

  • In order to precisely deliver the Schiaparelli landing demonstrator module to the martian surface and then insert ExoMars/TGO into orbit around the Red Planet, it’s necessary to pin down the spacecraft’s location to within just a few hundred metres at a distance of more than 150 million km.To achieve this amazing level of accuracy, ESA experts are making use of ‘quasars’ – the most luminous objects in the Universe – as ‘calibrators’ in a technique known as Delta-Differential One-Way Ranging, or delta-DOR.Until recently, quasars were only poorly understood. These objects can emit 1000 times the energy of our entire Milky Way galaxy from a volume that it not much bigger than our Solar System, making them fearfully powerful.
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Peake At The Controls

Tim Peake takes control of the ESA’s Mars rover prototype named Bridget located in the UK from the International Space Station.

He controlled the rover for two hours and even drove it into a simulated cave. Nice work!

I don’t know what the odds of the rover going into a cave on Mars but I would hope they would code in a reverse route in the event radio contact was lost.