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Image credit: Kirill Kudryavstev via Getty Images

ExoMars is speeding toward the red planet

But it'll be at least seven months before the surface analysis missions begin.

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Kirill Kudryavstev via Getty Images

In 2013 the European and Russian folks behind ExoMars announced they'd launch a rocket to explore Mars this year and they're right on schedule. Lifting off from Kazakhstan this morning, the spacecraft now has a seven month journey to the Red Planet where the Schiaparelli module will test its entry, descent and landing tech that'll be used on future missions. Once on the surface it'll start doing environmental analysis and hopefully avoid a turf selfie war with our Curiosity rover. Its "short" surface mission involves measuring electrical fields that should give insight into what triggers Martian dust storms.

Additionally, the Trace Gas Orbiter craft will execute a low orbit analysis of Mars' atmosphere, looking for rare gases. Specifically? Methane, which The European Space Agency says is key to understanding Mars given the gas' role in terms of geological and biological science. More than all this, the TGO will be used as a data relay point for ExoMars' 2018 mission that'll deploy a stationary surface science platform.

If your imagination isn't sufficient, the video below might give you a better idea of how the rocket that took off will change the closer it gets to our red celestial neighbor.

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