The European Space Agency's Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) begins several years of scientific work designed to answer whether life exists, or ever existed, on the Red Planet. Launched on 14 Mar 2016 from Kazakhstan with the Schiaparelli landing test module, it arrived in Oct 2016 and has since been adjusting to conditions ahead of its key work.
Schiaparelli will test descent and landing systems ahead of future missions, sending data during its 24 hours on the surface to the orbiter for transmission to Earth.
The ExoMars Orbiter will be inserted into an elliptical orbit around Mars and then sweep through the atmosphere to finally settle into a circular, approximately 400-km altitude orbit ready to conduct its scientific mission.
The TGO will remain in low orbit until at least 2022, searching the Martian atmosphere for methane and other rare gases that may hint at the presence of organic life. Altogether, the data from the TGO and Schiaparelli will help guide ExoMars' next mission to Mars in 2018.
Date written/update: 2016-08-18