Last year, the European Space Agency launched the Trace Gas Orbiter to Mars. It is designed to look for methane – a key tracer of life – to determine if Martian microbes are present on the red planet.
Now, ESA is preparing to launch another spacecraft to look at methane on another planet: our own.
The UK-built Sentinel-5P, a pollution monitoring satellite, is ready to begin its journey from Airbus Defence and Space, Stevenage, to the Plesetsk Cosmodrome, Russia, where it will lift off in late September/early October.
Sentinel-5P is part of the Copernicus global monitoring programme, a joint venture between the European Commission and the European Space Agency. This particular spacecraft is the first Copernicus satellite dedicated to monitoring atmospheric chemistry.
Missions like this are essential for making the connection between space and everyday life on Earth, according to Colin Paynter, Managing Director of Airbus Defence and Space, UK. He says, “Space is not just for geeks, it is part of our national and international infrastructure.”