ESA ExoMars announces exit from 2020 Mars season

Every 26 months or so, there will be a short period (ten days) suitable for launching a probe from Earth to Mars, a period that we Earthlings call the “Mars launch window.” The most recent launch window is the summer of 2020. Every time you miss it, you have to wait more than 2 years.

ESA ExoMars announces exit from 2020 Mars season

  Whenever Mars is about 44 degrees ahead of Earth’s position relative to the sun, the probe launched from Earth passes through an elliptical orbit (or “ground-fire transfer orbit”) and meets Mars naturally in a few months, a time of 26 months. Note that the timing of such a launch does not correspond to the closest time Mars is to Earth.

In this summer’s launch window, four contestants are scheduled to travel to Mars to carry out a series of scientific explorations of black technology. The four players are: China’s Mars Exploration Mission, NASA’s Mars 2020 Rover (just named Perseverance), ESA and Russia’s Space Agency’s ExoMars 2020 mission and the UAE’s Hope Mars Orbiter. (As for India’s Mangarian 2?) It has been extended to the 2024 window so far)

ESA ExoMars announces exit from 2020 Mars season

  The original four players for the 2020 Mars season.   Pictured: CNSA, ESA, Roscosmos NASA, UAE This is the history of human Mars exploration unprecedented.


2020, the year of Earth’s Mars exploration.

As the launch window approaches, the contestants have entered the final stage of preparation.

However, just a few days ago (March 12, 2020), ESA and the Russian Space Agency suddenly announced that this time we are too late, not first…

ESA ExoMars announces exit from 2020 Mars season

Source: ESA

Since the ExoMars mission is codenamed with the year of launch, ExoMars 2020 has been changed directly to ExoMars 2022 directly on the ESA official website.

ESA ExoMars announces exit from 2020 Mars season

The ESA mission introduction page has renamed the ExoMars 2020 mission as the ExoMars 2022 mission.   Source: ESA

Mahe, the ExoMars mission is really terrible. You know, this isn’t the first two or three four extensions of the ExoMars mission…

This is the ExoMars mission… The sixth extension…

ExoMars 2009 – ExoMars 2011

ExoMars 2011 – ExoMars 2013

ExoMars 2013 – ExoMars 2016

ExoMars 2016 – ExoMars 2018

ExoMars 2018 – ExoMars 2020

ExoMars 2020 – ExoMars 2022

ESA ExoMars announces exit from 2020 Mars season

It’s an oath to fight Webb…


Change and change: two years and two years after?

Unlike NASA’s Stamina rover, ESA and the Russian space shuttle ExoMars mission are similar to our Mars mission, which includes three components: orbiter, lander and rover.

ESA ExoMars announces exit from 2020 Mars season

  ExoMars series (formerly) components: Trace gas orbiter TGO (left), Schiaparelli EDM lander (center) and Mars 2020 Mars rover (right) Source: ESA

ExoMars’s initial mission design was not like this, but it had to be changed for a variety of reasons, including funding, capacity, collaboration, and international situation.

The ExoMars mission, originally approved in 2005, is part of ESA’s Aurora Programme(equivalent to ESA’s “flagship” mission), with only a simple Mars rover and lander (fixed station) planning to use the Russian Soyuz rocket. Launched in 2009. Yes, it was called ExoMars 2009, the rover was only 120 kg and the scientific instrument was only 10 kg. In order to distinguish it from NASA’s Courage and Opportunity rover, which was already on Mars at the time, ESA had long decided to focus its ExoMars exploration on extraterrestrial life that NASA did not involve.

ESA ExoMars announces exit from 2020 Mars season

Recommendations for the Testing of exoMars 2009 mars rover in Australia at the European Extraterrestrial Life Symposium in March 2004.   Source:

But soon the mission was extended to launch in 2011 as ExoMars 2011, and a follow-up Mars sample return mission was planned.

ESA ExoMars announces exit from 2020 Mars season

In May 2006, ExoMars was introduced in ESA documents, indicating that it would be issued in 2011.   Source: ESA Bulletin 126

By 2006, given that it could be used as a communications relay for a rover and could cost very little to increase mission success and scientific output, ESA wanted to add an orbiter, the later Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO). So the problem is. The combined launch weight is beyond the capacity of the Soyuz rocket (about 1.5 tons of ground fire transfer orbit) and will need to be replaced with the European Ariane 5 (about 3.5 tons in ground fire transfer orbit) or the Russian Proton (about 3.5 tons in ground fire transfer orbit), but if replaced with Ariane 5 it will not only mean the cost of launching, but the rocket will not be able to fully meet the need to send ExoMars into Mars transfer orbit directly.

What about the Proton, not that much money, technology for launch line can not do? In 2007, ESA went to the Russian cosmonauts to discuss: We’re going to help you with the next Forbes-Soil Mars mission, how about you send us ExoMars? It’s not a deal.

Then postpone it first, from ExoMars 2011 to ExoMars 2013.

ESA ExoMars announces exit from 2020 Mars season

Right, 2013.   Source: IPPWCP 2008

By October 2008, the problem had not been solved, funding was difficult, nothing to say, first to ExoMars 2016.

By July 2009, when it was supposed to be extended to ExoMars 2018, the rocket problem was finally solved. ESA and NASA signed the Joint Mars Exploration Initiative (MEJI), which agreed to launch ExoMars with its Cosmos 5 rocket ,about 5 tons in geo-fire transfer orbit, but ESA must match the rocket’s capacity to adjust the weight of the original ExoMars components.

After some coordination, the ExoMars mission was stuffed into two Hercules 5 rockets in bulk: the orbiter TGO with a lander launched in 2016, or ExoMars 2016; In 2018, the landing method was made with an aerial crane used by Curiosity. Other capacity plugs NASA’s own Mars rover.

In August 2009, the Russian aerospace side also agreed: The Russian aerospace provides proton as a backup launch rocket for ExoMars, which is equipped with Russian space agency instruments.

By 2012, however, the problem was again. For financial reasons, the U.S. pulled out of ExoMars’s partnership to save money on James Webb, a black hole. Well, the Cosmos rocket is gone, and this ExoMars can’t do it again…

But, in the past, what happened to Russia’s Forbes-Soil is also known: at the end of 2011, the Mars rover, which was also carrying our country’s Firefly One, failed to launch, burying it in the Pacific Ocean, becoming the first Mars exploration mission to fail during the launch in the 21st century.

Under such circumstances, ESA and Roscosmos again cooperated in 2013: 1) Roscosmos provided two Proton-M rockets and all launch services; 2) the Trace Gas Orbiter TGO carried two Russian instruments originally carried on the Forbes-Soil, 3) all scientific data sharing.

Finally the deal! Hot tears ah there is wood!

The launch of the final two Proton-M rockets was changed to this:

ExoMars 2016: ESA’s Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) and ESA’s experimental Schiaparelli EDM Lander

ExoMars 2018: ESA’s Rosalind Franklin Rover and The Russian Aerospace’s Little Cossack Lander (air crane replaced with recoil engine landing)

ESA ExoMars announces exit from 2020 Mars season

ExoMars 2016 and ExoMars 2018 mission arrangements.   Source: ESA, Roscosmos

Is ExoMars’s death over? There’s no slug.


Schiaparelli Lander: 7 Minutes of Terror

ExoMars 2016 was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on March 14, 2016 with the goal of exploring the Martian atmosphere.

ESA ExoMars announces exit from 2020 Mars season

ExoMars 2016 launch.   Source: ESA, Roscosmos

Although it was discovered shortly after launch that the Breeze-M level appeared to be a problem, it was fortunate that the orbiter and lander were not affected and continued to fly to Mars. In October 2016, the Trace Gas Orbiter TGO entered orbit around Mars.

ESA ExoMars announces exit from 2020 Mars season

TGO’s Mars Rendezvous Orbit (white), Blue Dot Earth, Red Dot Mars.   Source: ESA/ATG medialab

However, the Schiaparelli EDM lander, which had been scheduled to land on the surface of Mars on October 19, 2016, was not so lucky.

All probes that want to set foot on the surface of Mars must undergo a harsh “seven-minute horror” test, having to pass through the scorching Martian atmosphere, successfully open their parachutes, and gradually reduce the speed from about 6 km/s to near-0 speed before landing, before they can be steady, neither burned nor fell to their target. In this short span of minutes, the lander needs to complete thousands of steps autonomously, and no errors can be made in one step.

But the Schiaparelli EDM lander failed to make it through one of the most dangerous “horror seven minutes” and lost touch as it entered the final stages.

ESA ExoMars announces exit from 2020 Mars season

  The scheduled landing process of the Schiaparelli EDM lander: enterthe atmosphere, slow down the air, open the parachute, drop the shield, reverse deceleration, free-fall landing.   Source: ESA/ATG medialab

A few days later, NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) found the crash site and debris of the Schiaparelli EDM lander, as well as insulation shields, parachutes and other debris, confirming the landing failure.

ESA ExoMars announces exit from 2020 Mars season

The wreckage of the Schiaparelli EDM lander.   Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

The accident investigation revealed that the Schiaparelli lander died mainly from a software failure after opening the parachute. Due to the underestimation of the attitude change when the parachute unfolded, the lander experienced a more than expected shock and rotation, which triggered a series of measurement errors and miscalculations, which eventually resulted in the lander dropping the parachute prematurely and the wrong shutdown of the backflush engine and eventually crashing to its death.

To be sure, for ESA, which had not successfully landed on Mars before (and the Soviet Union, which had been transported too far from Mars), the first attempt to land was entirely understandable (the Hound 2 also failed), which is why ESA first took a small lander for water. But the failure also means that ESA and The Russian Space Agency will need to continue to refine their Mars landing technology to avoid repeating the same mistakes.

On the other hand, in May 2016, ESA announced that ExoMars 2018 had failed to keep pace with the launch because of problems with the manufacture and delivery of scientific instruments, and was postponed to ExoMars 2020, officially announcing the dead-end marsrover, which was due to launch in the same period as Curiosity in 2009. Now it will be launched with Curiosity’s successor, Mars 2020, or Perseverance. And while Curiosity has been delayed for one time, curiosity, launched in 2011, has been on Mars for seven and a half years.


Delayed again: Parachute or new crown?

The bombshell pointed that the year missed the launch progress to become ExoMars 2020’s poor Mars rover, this time failed to catch the 2020 launch window, the ExoMars 2022.

As for this time, why did the double-double delay? EsA’s reasoning is: 1) more time is needed to test, 2) the new crown in Europe, the outbreak of the impact on the progress of the work.

Translation is: 1) not ready; 2) force majeure we also can not…

Force Majeure We won’t say it, but the problem we’re not ready is really not modest.

The biggest headache is the parachute problem. As the lander and rover continued to grow, ESA eventually adopted a very complex parachute design: two sets of four parachutes in total.

After entering the atmosphere, open the first set of sub-umbrellas, drop a section to throw away, then open the first set of the main umbrella, drop a section throw away, then open the second set of sub-umbrellas, do not throw, and then open the second set of the main umbrella … It’s really quite… Have an idea… Oh yes, the largest main umbrella is 35 meters in diameter, the largest Mars parachute by far…

ESA ExoMars announces exit from 2020 Mars season

  Two sets of parachutes unfold the process, not according to the scale, different colors just represent the distinction between different umbrellas, does not represent the actual color.   Source: ESA

Whether it is the complexity or greatness of the parachute, it brings a lot of difficulties and uncertainties to the mission. In response, Francois Spoto, project manager for the ExoMars mission, said: If the lander’s backstroke engine is powerful enough, we actually only need a main parachute.

In March 2018, the parachute’s low-altitude test (1.2 km) was a success.

But the May 2019 high-altitude test (29km) failed completely: both parachutists were successfully opened and inflated, but both main umbrellas were torn before they reached maximum load.

In August of the same year, the second high-altitude test still failed. This is directly a problem with the design of the parachute. No way, ESA had to go to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which successfully completed eight Mars landingmissions.

By analyzing the data recorded in the test, the team found that the problem should have been in the parachute bag, which appeared to be ok. That is to say, allowing the parachute to be released from the umbrella bag without tearing it apart by friction can solve the current problem. So in the site provided by NASA JPL, ESA successfully completed the low-speed (120 km/h) release test of the improved two main umbrellas and the first high-speed (200 km/h) release test of the first main umbrella.

But in addition to the ground high-speed release test for the second main umbrella, two high-altitude tests will be completed, which were originally scheduled for February and March 2020, but have not yet been conducted and have been postponed until March.

But it’s not just the parachutes, and the exoMars 2020 before the delay has exposed a lot of hardware and software problems, and even the glue of the solar panels has been buggy (although ESA says you have to believe that this is really a minor problem) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . And the software problem is even the former Schiaparelli EDM landing failure is a major reason ah. Heart is so big, feel really not in a hurry…

All in all, more testing is really necessary, and ExoMars 2020 is not ready yet. Given that ExoMars has already had a landing failure, it is certainly necessary to take a 200 per cent caution, and not to extend it twice.

So the people who eat melons also express their full understanding of the ExoMars mission:

ESA ExoMars announces exit from 2020 Mars season

It’s sad, but late is better than blowing up.

ExoMars 2022: Not feeling comforted…

In short, the current ExoMars mission is to launch with the Rover in the Martian window in August-October 2022 and reach Mars between April and July 2023.

ESA ExoMars announces exit from 2020 Mars season

  The latest timeline for the ExoMars mission: Orbiter TGO launched into orbit in 2016, Mars rover and lander launch in 2022 and mars in 2023.   Source: ESA

On the other side, trescarbee gas orbiter TGO, which has been in place since 2016, has been in orbit for three and a half years. Don’t forget, this orbiter has a mission to make communications relays for the rover in addition to scientific exploration. Although Mars Odyssey, Mars Express such over-mission jade in front, but conservatively look struck by TGO’s design life after all only 7 years ah.

This means that the orbiter, which doubles as a communications relay, is likely to be able to count on the last launch in 2022, without waiting until the next delay.

ESA ExoMars announces exit from 2020 Mars season

Trace Gas Railer TGO: To scrap the boss!

So from any angle, I really hope that this bumpy probe can successfully start the journey to Mars, but also hope that so many years of hardship can finally be replaced by the smooth landing of ExoMars, do not delay.

It is also hoped that three other players this season: China’s Mars Exploration Mission, NASA’s Stamina Rover and the UAE’s Hope Mars Orbiter will make their maiden voyage steady.