Data relay is an essential part of Mars exploration, with commands sent to rovers and landers on the surface via orbiting spacecraft, and in turn, scientific data collected by the surface missions is sent back to Earth through the orbiter. All of ESA and NASA’s orbiters provide data relay services for surface missions, which currently comprises NASA’s Curiosity rover and Insight lander. The ESA-Roscosmos Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) is a key provider, relaying around 60% of NASA’s Mars surface data to Earth. TGO will be the primary relay for the second ExoMars mission in 2021, which comprises a rover and a surface science platform.
ESA has demonstrated expertise in studying Mars from orbit, now we are looking to secure a safe landing, to rove across the surface and to drill underground to search for evidence of life. Our orbiters are already in place to provide data relay services for surface missions. The next logical step is to bring samples back to Earth, to provide access to Mars for scientists globally, and to better prepare for future human exploration of the Red Planet.
This set of infographics highlight’s ESA’s contribution to Mars exploration as we ramp up to the launch of our second ExoMars mission, and look beyond to completing a Mars Sample Return mission.