The launch window for the European Space Agency’s next Mars shot is fast approaching, with 14 March the first available date set for take-off of ExoMars 2016.
The mission involves two spacecraft – the Trace Gas Orbiter and the 600-kilogram Schiaparelli (pictured above).
The two will be launched on a Russian Proton rocket during a window that remains open until 25 March.
Schiaparelli will ride to Mars on the Trace Gas Orbiter, with the two separating three days before they reach the planet. Schiaparelli will enter orbit for a five-year mission of studying atmospheric gases to determine any biological or geological activity.
The module is named in honour of the Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli, who mapped the Red Planet’s surface features in the 19th century.