The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (ExoMars TGO) is searching for methane, water vapor, nitrogen oxides, acetylenemethane, and other trace gases in the Martian atmosphere that could be evidence of possible biological or geological activity.
- The orbiter is the first in a series of joint missions between the European Space Agency (ESA) and Roscosmos, the Russian space agency.
- It’s also meant to test technology for future missions.
- Exomars Trace Gas Orbiter began operations after entering Mars orbit on Oct. 19, 2016
- The mission’s Schiaparelli lander crashed on the Martian surface due to conflicting information from an onboard computer.
March 14, 2016: Launch | 09:31 UT
Oct. 19, 2016: Mars Orbit Insertion
March 2018: Communications Relay Operations
March 2018 - Present: Science Operations
Objective(s): Mars orbiter, lander
Spacecraft Mass: 9,550 pounds (4,332 kg) total including 8,278 pounds (3,755 kg) TGO and 1,272 pounds (577 kg) Schiaparelli EDM
- Nadir and Occultation for Mars Discovery spectrometer (NOMAD)
- Atmospheric Chemistry Suite spectrometers (ACS)
- Color and Stereo Surface Imaging System (CaSSIS)
- Fine-Resolution Epithermal Neutron Detector (FREND)
The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) was designed to search for trace gases in the Martian atmosphere such as methane, water vapor, nitrogen oxides and acetylene. These gases could provide evidence for possible biological or geological activity on Mars. Organisms on Earth release methane during digestion, although geological processes such as the oxidation of minerals can also release methane.
ExoMars also will monitor seasonal changes in the Martian atmosphere and will look for water-ice beneath the surface. Information gathered during the mission will help decide landing sites for future ESA missions.
A companion mission to TGO, the ExoMars Rosalind Franklin mission, is planned for launch in 2028 at the earliest. It will include the Rosalind Franklin rover, capable of drilling about 6 feet (two meters) below the surface to search for clues of past life on Mars. ExoMars TGO will support the mission by relaying data from the rover to mission managers. The mission had been scheduled to launch in 2022, but ESA dissolved its partnership with Roscosmos after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.