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Waspie_Dwarf

ExoMars orbiter nears start of science mission

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Waspie_Dwarf

Europe’s ExoMars orbiter nears start of methane-sniffing science mission

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Nearly a year-and-a-half after arriving at the red planet, Europe’s ExoMars orbiter is finally approaching a planned perch around 250 miles over the rust-colored world after repeatedly dipping into the Martian atmosphere to lower its orbit.

The end of a year-long “aerobraking” campaign moves the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter closer to starting regular science observations, a transition expected in April, when the mission will begin measuring how much methane is in the Martian atmosphere, an indicator of potential ongoing biological or geological activity.

arrow3.gif  Read More: Spaceflight Now

 

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Waspie_Dwarf

ExoMars poised to start science mission

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The ExoMars orbiter will soon begin its search for gases that may be linked to active geological or biological activity on the Red Planet.

The Trace Gas Orbiter has reached its final orbit after a year of ‘aerobraking’ that ended in February. This exciting operation saw the craft skimming through the very top of the upper atmosphere, using drag on its solar wings to transform its initial highly elliptical four-day orbit of about 200 x 98 000 km into the final, much lower and near-circular path at about 400 km.

arrow3.gif  Read More: ESA

 

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Merc14

Can't wait to see what it finds.

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bison

If they find methane, together with ethane and propane, it's said that this will suggest the presence of life. If methane is found with sulphur dioxide, geological processes are apparently likelier. With repeated observations they should be able to achieve remarkable sensitivities ~ 10 parts per trillion in Mars' atmosphere. 

Edited by bison
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Sundew

I would guess any life on Mars is, or was, similar to the extremophiles we have on Earth; able to live with chemicals/radiation that might kill most "common" life forms. Many of them exist in harsh environments and consume compounds other organisms cannot. I'm not sure what they excrete or exhale in the process, but I wonder if all biological organisms on Earth give off Methane and whether any extremophile organisms on Mars would as well?

Could life be so exotic compared with what we are familiar with that we might not readily recognize it as life so easily?

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fred_mc

Very interesting. Excited to see the results.

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bison
4 hours ago, Sundew said:

I would guess any life on Mars is, or was, similar to the extremophiles we have on Earth; able to live with chemicals/radiation that might kill most "common" life forms. Many of them exist in harsh environments and consume compounds other organisms cannot. I'm not sure what they excrete or exhale in the process, but I wonder if all biological organisms on Earth give off Methane and whether any extremophile organisms on Mars would as well?

Could life be so exotic compared with what we are familiar with that we might not readily recognize it as life so easily?

Methanogen bacteria are widely found on Earth. They metabolize carbon dioxide and water and excrete methane. They can exist below the surface, within what we think of as 'solid' rock. They appear to be a good model for the sort of living organisms we might find on Mars. If below the surface, they could avoid exposure to harmful radiation, and could have access to a dependable source of water. 

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Merc14

I'm not even going to speculate on this one but enjoy reading other's thoughts.  Can't wait to see what she finds!

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Aardvark-DK

If biological, it might not be such a good idea to take a sample back to earth, with a sample mission, or ?

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Mr.United_Nations

Regardless of the results, itvis an exciting mission for all those involved

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Calibeliever

Excited to see the results. Even if the source turns out to be geological, that will be a significant result. I've had my ears perked up ever since they discovered methane a few years back and hopefully this will get them closer to nailing it down.

 

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AudioAndroid

Auntie Entity: For God's sake, what now?
Master Blaster: Who run MARS?

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Shiloh

A biological discovery would be the single most important discovery in the history of mankind - life elsewhere in the universe.

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bison

Earth and Mars have been exchanging materials for billions of years. A sizable impact on either world can blast soil, rock, and maybe life, from one to the other. Mars, being substantially smaller and less dense probably cooled enough to be hospitable to life, before Earth did. There's a reasonable chance, then, that Earth was seeded with life from the Red Planet.    

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