The ExoMars 2016 mission consists in the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) and a landing demonstrator module, known as Schiaparelli. The main objectives of the mission are to search evidence of methan and trace atmospheric gases. These compounds are very important because they could be signature of active biological and geological processes. The objective of the Schiaparelli landing demonstrator module, instead, was to perform a technologic test in preparation of future ESA’s mission to Mars.

The Orbiter and Schiaparelli were launched together on 14 March 2016. On 19 October, the TGO was inserted into an elliptical orbit around Mars. Subsequently, a number of manoeuvres were performed to put the satellite on a 74° inclined orbit with respect to the equator. In mid-March 2017, the aerobraking phase began and brought the satellite at a approximately 400-km altitude orbit. Since March 2018 the satellite is conducting its scientific mission.

The Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO)

Artistic image of the Trace Gas Orbiter showing the science intruments. Credit: ESA/ATG medialab

The TGO consists of four instruments:

  • NOMAD: Nadir and Occultation for MArs Discovery. Composed of two infrared and one ultraviolet spectrometers, it will perform high-sensitivity identification of atmospheric components.
  • ACS: Atmospheric Chemistry Suite. Composed of three infrared instruments, it will investigate the chemistry and structure of the Martian atmosphere, complementing the NOMAD observations.
  • CaSSIS: Colour and Stereo Surface Imaging System. It is a high resolution camera (5 meters) capable of obtaining colour and stereo images of the surface.
  • FREND – Fine Resolution Epithermal Neutron Detector. Composed of a neutron detector, FREND will map hydrogen on the surface down to depths of 1 meter.

 

The CaSSIS stereo camera

Our group shares the Co-responsibility of the CaSSIS stereo camera with the University of Bern. CaSSIS is a high resolution imaging system which provides us colour and stereo images of the surface  of Mars at a resolution of 5m. These data are fundamental because they extend and complement the images obtained by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) and allow the production Digital Terrain Models (DTMs) of the surface.  In this post, you can see an example of CaSSIS images and DTMs.

Credits: © 2019 University of Bern

For more details on the CaSSIS stereo camera, we remind you to the relative research article: