An ice-filled Martian crater is visible in the first photographs of Mars transmitted from the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO).
After a year of extremely dangerous aerobraking, the ExoMars TGO began transmitting photographs of the surface from its camera system, known as CaSSIS (Colour and Stereo Surface Imaging System). The first photograph taken by the ExoMars TGO from 400km above the surface shows the rim of an ice-filled crater called Korolev, which is located at a high latitude in the northern hemisphere of the planet.
The UK Space Agency has contributed €287 million to the overall ExoMars Mission and €14 million to the instruments over 13 years, which includes £370,000 for The Open University to develop the spacecraft’s instrument operations.
“A major step forward in our understanding of the seasons on Mars”
Senior Lecturer at The Open University, Dr Manish Patel, is a member of the CaSSIS team; he said:
“The images that CaSSIS is beginning to return are simply fantastic. To see the quality of the colour in these first images is a testament to the hard work of the CaSSIS team in getting the instrument to Mars on TGO.
“This image heralds the start of a great mission. CaSSIS has proven it is going to generate plenty of exciting images over the mission duration and provide a major step forward in our understanding of the seasonal cycles at work on Mars.”
Is there life on Mars?
The aim of the ExoMars TGO Mission, which launched in 2016, is to develop an understanding of one of the great unanswered questions of modern space science – whether the planet Mars has ever supported life.