The University of Bern has built a camera called CaSSIS (Color and Stereo Surface Imaging System) that will be integrated on the ESA's ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) spacecraft, which will be sent to Mars on March 12, 2016.
CaSSIS will be sent to Cannes, France on Monday, where the TGO is currently located. It is designed to help existing imaging devices already on Mars and provide high-resolution stereo images of the red planet.
"CaSSIS is the best system we could build with the available resources. Looking from 100 kilometers above, we would be able to precisely picture cars with this camera -- in color and stereo. One of our goals is to look at changes on Mars. We now know that surface changes on Mars are common and we need a tool to follow those changes," said Nicolas Thomas of the Center of Space and Habitability and head of the research team, according to University of Bern's press release.
The project was originally for an ESA-NASA program. However, both agencies failed to reach an agreement, and the program became an ESA-Roskomos venture, according to Space of University of Bern.
With the changes on the program, the team was left with 27 months to build the camera instead of 38 months.
"The challenge has been to complete the camera in time. We only had 27 months -- normally you would budget 38 months for such a complicated instrument. The Uni Bern team and our partners have worked incredibly hard to meet the launch date," Thomas added in the press article.
ESA will be in full control of the Orbiter during all phases of its mission, including insertion into Mars orbit, orbit control, aerobraking, science operations and Mars communications operations, according to ESA.