Another space probe has approached Mars and is ready to start collecting data. The Trace Gas Orbiter was launched by the European Space Agency, and will orbit the Red Planet and analyze its atmosphere. Its main purpose is to look at the origin and composition of the different gases found there, and identify possible processes that might produce them.
The Trace Gas Orbiter is ready to start its mission
The Trace Gas Orbiter reached Mars a year ago, but it took it precisely twelve months to settle on a stable orbit around the planet. At first, it had an elliptical orbit, but it used a series of mechanisms to recalibrate it, and now its shape is more circular.
The Trace Gas Orbiter is part of ESA’s ExoMars program. Its main goal is to study all the gases present in the atmosphere of the Red Planet. Then, based on these gases, scientists might find out what kind of biological and geological processes took place on the surface.
This data might tell if life is possible on Mars
The space mission is unique from other points of view as well. This is the first time when scientists managed to send a space probe to a planet by using aerobraking. Also, the Trace Gas Orbiter is the heaviest shuttle of its kind that has ever reached Mars.
In about two weeks, the orbiter should be done gathering data from Mars’ atmosphere. These findings can have a huge relevance in the search for life on the planet. Seeing what kind of gases are present in the atmosphere, they will tell if there are any biological or geological processes that still go on.
Since the name of the probe is the Trace Gas Orbiter, it means it will detect trace gases. For instance, methane is one such gas, which is really important on Earth. Both living organisms and volcanoes or other similar geological activities release this gas in the atmosphere. Therefore, these are great markers for life, and can teach us more about Mars.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons