ExoMars selected landing site

ExoMars selected landing site

Scientists of the European Space Agency plan to land the ExoMars rover on the previously targeted Oxia Planum elevation. After that, the spacecraft will be able to begin the search for early and late life on this planet.

The data collected in orbit show that the device will be located near the equatorial region of Mars, where there is a huge accumulation of clay and other minerals actively interacting with water. According to rough estimates by scientists, about 3, 9 billion years ago, the planet had a higher temperature and higher humidity than today.

Signs of life, if the latter ever existed, will be difficult to detect, because the thin atmosphere of the planet does not protect against cosmic and solar ultraviolet radiation. In addition, these same processes that form stones destroy organic molecules.

Mars is also covered with a variety of toxic salts that complicate the search for life.

However, Oxia Planum shows signs of volcanic activity in the past, so scientists hope to discover some deposits containing organic material and covered with lava.

The ExoMars spacecraft is scheduled to launch in 2018, but recently there is a discussion about the flight delay until 2020, which will be able to equip the rover with a special drill that can extract rock samples from a depth of about 6, 5 feet or 2 meters. Scientists have made rough estimates about the possibilities of placing the device on three other devices - Aram Doraum, Hypanis Vallis and Mawrth Vallis, but decided to focus on Oxia Planum after weighing all the pros and cons.

For example, ExoMars can land on lowlands, and most of the surface of Mars consists of them. Also, the device has the ability to parachute landing. Scientists at the same time took into account forecasts of horizontal and vertical wind speeds during the descent of the rover to the planet at the end of 2019 - the period of active sandstorms.

When choosing a landing site, the group tried to avoid potentially dangerous slopes and boulders.

"Our preliminary analysis shows that Oxia Planum meets all the most stringent engineering requirements and restrictions, and also offers a couple of very interesting options for studying the planet's biosystem," said one of the team of scientists of the ESA project, Jorge Vago, in a statement.

ESA and Roscosmos (Russian Space Agency), which is a partner of this project, will know the final (approximate) landing date of ExoMars six months before the start.

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