A European Space Agency orbiter recently evaluated its collection of onboard devices in Mars orbit for the first time, resulting in some breathtaking images and suggesting a bright future for the mission.
The Trace Gas Orbiter arrived at the Red Planet back on October 19, and sent back its first images to Earth on November 22, during its first close flyby of Mars.
Some of the new images, merged to produce a video, showed details of the Martian surface when the probe was at an altitude of approximately 150 miles. Other pictures were captured when the orbiter was flying thousands of miles from Mars.
The TGO video revealed craters, mountain ranges, and dark lines covering various regions, including one referred to as Arsia Chasmata, near the large Martian volcano referred to as Arsia Mons.
“We are extremely happy and proud to see that all the instruments are working so well in the Mars environment, and this first impression gives a fantastic preview of what’s to come when we start collecting data for real at the end of next year,” Håkan Svedhem, a TGO scientist, said in a press release.
The First of Many Things to Come
The ESA said information from the first orbit was presented to demonstrate the range of findings expected to come once the probe arrives at its destination orbit, about 250 miles above Mars, later next year.
TGO’s primary goal is to detect gasses thought to make up less than 1 percent of the Martian atmosphere, including methane, water vapor, nitrogen dioxide and acetylene. ESA scientists said they are particularly interested in methane, which is primarily generated on Earth by biological activity and, on a smaller scale, geological activities.
The two instruments given this job have now shown they can take very sensitive spectra of the atmosphere, the ESA said. During the test studies last week, the Atmospheric Chemistry Suite looked at carbon dioxide, while the Nadir and Occultation for Mars Discovery instrument focused on water vapor.
The TGO team also synchronized observations with ESA’s Mars Express and NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, as they will down the road.
Image credit: ESA/Roscosmos/ExoMars/CaSSIS/UniBE
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