The ExoMars orbiter, which arrived at the red planet last month, will begin its first scientific observation later this week, the European Space Agency said in a statement released Friday. The observations, which the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) will carry out from its highly elliptical orbit, will provide the science teams at ESA and Roscosmos a chance to calibrate their instruments. "The main science mission will only begin once it reaches a near-circular orbit about 400 km above the planet's surface after a year of'aerobraking' – using the atmosphere to gradually brake and change its orbit. Full science operations are expected to begin by March 2018," ESA said in the statement. Currently, the TGO's orbit, which has a period of 4.2 Earth days, brings it roughly 190 miles from Mars' surface during closest approach, and takes it 69,000 miles from it at its farthest.
NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has snapped images of more than 99 per cent of Mars in 50,000 orbits and become the most data-productive spacecraft we've ever sent there. MRO made its 50,000th orbit of the Red Planet this week, with its Context Camera continuing to take pictures of the surface as it has done since 2006. As the camera snaps its images, the observations accumulate into a detailed picture that now covers 99.1 per cent of the planet. The camera does this by taking the highest resolution it can manage at the smallest file size it can fit it into, thereby sending tons of data back home. There are around 20 feet per pixel in its images and each successive picture fills in the gaps, giving a vast library of 90,000 images.
The United Arab Emirates Hope orbiter snapped its first image of Mars on Sunday, as part of the first interplanetary mission from an Arab country. Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE's leader, announced this triumphant news on Twitter, calling it a "defining moment" in the nation's history. The transmission of the Hope Probe's first image of Mars is a defining moment in our history and marks the UAE joining advanced nations involved in space exploration. We hope this mission will lead to new discoveries about Mars which will benefit humanity. The photo shows Mars' three shield volcanoes all in a line, as well as Olympus Mons, the largest known volcano in the solar system.
Each of NASA's two Martian rovers reported back to Earth last week via the new European orbiter, in the first successful relay test of Mars' growing telecoms network. The Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) put into orbit by the European Space Agency and Russia's Roscosmos is carrying twin Electra radios for NASA, allowing it to receive signals from Opportunity and Curiosity. These signals are then relayed on to Earth from the orbiter's main communications radio. The TGO is currently in an elliptical orbit that takes it between 235km and 98,000km from the planet's surface. But eventually, in a little over a year, the spacecraft will settle into a near-circular path around 400km above the ground.