The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter has just returned with its first images on a new orbit, and they are incredible.
A breathtaking new series of images from the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter gives us a totally different view of the Red Planet. The European Space Agency had altered its orbit to a near-circular 400 kilometer altitude orbit a few weeks ago in order to help seek out gases that might help shed light on geological or even biological activity on Mars, and these pictures are a nice bonus to that scientific endeavor.
The ExoMars orbiter used its Colour and Stereo Surface Imaging System (CaSSIS) to take the incredible image you see above, which shows part of an impact crater. The camera was activated back on March 20 and a test was run for its main mission on April 28. The actual photo seen here was taken on April 15.
The orbiter launched back in March 2016 and arrived in October 2016, and is the precusor for an eventual ExoMars rover, which would launch in 2020. The obriter will look for methane and other gases in the Martian atmosphere, a process that began back on April 21.
“We transmitted new software to the instrument at the start of the test phase and after a couple of minor issues, the instrument is in good health and ready to work,” says the camera’s principal investigator, Nicolas Thomas from the University of Bern in Switzerland.