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ExoMars Mission sends Open University instrument to the red planet

23 March 2016

On 14th March the European Space Agency’s ExoMars 2016 Mission launched in Kazakhstan. The ExoMars orbiter is scheduled to arrive on planet Mars in October, where it will search for methane gas emissions, which could indicate the past presence of life-forms on the red planet.

Open University academic and Aurora Academic Fellow Dr Manish Patel in is co-Principal Investigator for the on-board NOMAD (Nadir and Occultation for Mars Discovery) instrument. NOMAD consists of three spectrometers, and Dr Patel and his team worked specifically on UVIS, a miniature ultraviolet spectrometer.

Of the launch, Dr Patel comments: “I watched nervously after having spent 13 years working on one of its instruments. Needless to say, it was one of the most exciting and nerve-wracking days of my life [and] one of the most important achievements in my career.”

Principal Investigator on NOMAD is the Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy. The other co-Principal Investigators are Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía, Spain, and Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica, Italy. Additional involvement comes from Canada and the United States.

The mission is the first of three robotic missions, with NASA and the European Space Agency effecting another Mars mission in 2018, and a later joint sample return mission.

Learn more about the ExoMars mission in Dr Patel’s article for The Conversation, and watch the video of him speaking about his research:

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