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ExoMars spacecraft


First images from Swiss camera on Mars orbiter


The image points to a randomly selected portion of the sky close to the southern celestial pole and shows star positions (ESA/Roscosmos/CaSSIS)

The image points to a randomly selected portion of the sky close to the southern celestial pole and shows star positions

(ESA/Roscosmos/CaSSIS)

On Thursday, the European Space Agency released the first images taken from its ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) headed towards the planet Mars. A test of the Swiss-made camera/telescope on board went smoothly. 

The TGO was launched exactly a month ago from Kazakhstan and is expected to reach Mars’ orbit in October 2016. The images taken by Swiss-made CaSSIS (Colour and Stereo Surface Imaging System) will allow researchers to take high-resolution, colour pictures of the surface and topography of Mars in 3D. 

It was first activated on April 7 acquiring its first images from space. 

“The initial switch-on went quite smoothly and so far things look good,” says Nicolas Thomas from the University of Bern in Switzerland - the camera’s principal investigator. 

“Although it was not designed to look at faint stars, these first images are very reassuring. Everything points to us being able to get good data at Mars.” 

CaSSIS was designed and built in just 23 months by a team of scientists and engineers from all over the world, led by Dr Nicolas Thomas of the University of Bern Space Research and Planetary Sciences Division. Switzerland’s contribution includes engineering expertise from the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology in Zurich and Lausanne, and key construction elements from Swiss industry. 

It cost approximately €18 million (equivalent to about $20 million or CHF 19.7 million).

 

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