The planet Mars seems ever closer, so science fiction fans may soon have their fantasies fulfilled – not for little green men, but for some signs of life or something useful for us on Earth. The Trace Gas Orbiter of the ExoMars 2016 mission has been “sniffing” Mars’ atmosphere for long months, sending back crucial scientific information. The follow-on mission, ExoMars 2020, is close behind. In 2021, after a nine-month journey, its rover will touch down on the red planet to explore a vast area.
For the first time ever, soil sampling will be at a depth of two meters, beyond the layers affected by radiation.
“We are confident that at the greater depth we will find some form of present or past life, which would be an epochal scientific discovery,” said Walter Cugno, Vice President for Exploration and Science at Thales Alenia Space.
Thales Alenia Space is the prime contractor for both missions under a program of the European Space Agency and Roscosmos, the Russian space agency. Within the consortium of over 140 companies, Leonardo will provide the critical soil sample drill, OHB the carrier module, and Airbus Defense and Space the rover itself. NPO Lavochkin will build the Entry and Descend Module as well as the landing platform. Thales Alenia Space is developing some of the most technologically advanced elements, such as the guidance and navigation systems for the carrier and descent modules and the on-board laboratory.
While ExoMars 2020’s objectives are scientific, the technology applied will further cement Thales Alenia Space’s leading role in the new space economy, creating benefits for human beings in the course of exploring, researching, managing, and utilizing space.
Despite the growing importance of the commercial space sector, the use of space for defense purpose remains prominent thanks also to space technologies that have both civil and military applications like weather forecasting, remote sensing, and global positioning. This is what Thales is all about, creating value with its technological prowess at the nexus of military and civilian applications and the public and private sectors.
And even distant Mercury is not beyond reach. This year Thales Alenia Space will be part of the BepiColombo “Space Oddity”, a seven-year mission to the smallest planet in our solar system.
Venus, Mars, Titan, asteroids and comets… Thales Alenia Space has always been a pivotal partner in Europe's fantastic missions to the Solar System.