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ESA’s Control Center establishes contact with ExoMars-2016 spacecraft

March 15, 2016, 4:30 UTC+3 KOROLEV

Russia’s Proton-M carrier rocket with the spacecraft of the ExoMars interplanetary mission blasted off on Monday from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan

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KOROLEV/ Moscow Region/, March 15. /TASS/. The European Space Agency’s (ESA) control center in Germany’s Darnstadt received first signals from the Mars-bound Space vehicles of the Russian-European interplanetary mission ExoMars-2016, a spokesman for the Russian Mission Control told TASS.

"We have received a report confirming a signal from the Exo-Mars interplanetary station," the spokesman said.

Russia’s Proton-M carrier rocket with the spacecraft of the ExoMars interplanetary mission blasted off on Monday from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan. The Briz-M booster separated jointly with the ExoMars-2016 space vehicles from the third stage of the Proton-M carrier rocket.

After the space vehicles were delivered into the near-Earth orbit the Briz-M switched on its engines four times to put the inter-planetary mission to a designated trajectory.

According to the ESA website, the orbiter’s solar wings were unfolded and the spacecraft was now on its way to Mars.

The 2016 ExoMars mission involves two space vehicles: the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) that will analyze the composition of the Mars atmosphere and transmit the relevant data to the Earth and the Schiaparelli landing module that will practice maneuvers to enter the Martian atmosphere, descend and land on the Red Planet.

"I am grateful to our Russian partner, who has given this mission the best possible start today," ESA Director General Johann-Dietrich Woerner was quoted as saying on the European agency’s website. "Now we will explore Mars together."

Igor Komarov, the director general of the Russian state space corporation Roscosmos, told journalists following the lift-off from the Baikonur space station that "the launch systems successfully carried out all of its set tasks."

Asked whether the Russian Control Center would be exercising equal control with the European partners over the Mars-bound vehicles, Komarov said "most of the work will be conducted from the European center, which will be in charge of control and tracking."

"However, is the need should arise, the work of the team from Russia will be provided as well," he added.

The ExoMars journey to the fourth planet from the Sun will take seven months. The ExoMars space vehicles are expected to separate on October 16 so that the Schiaparelli landing module can enter the Martian atmosphere on October 19 and the TGO can enter Mars' orbit.

The Martian atmosphere will slow down the Russia-Euro spacecraft in a year-long descent to the Red Planet. The spacecraft, according to expert estimates, can be operated till late 2022.

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