A key instrument on the European Space Agency’s (ESA) ExoMars rover, the Panoramic Camera (PanCam), has been fitted and integrated into Airbus’ bio-burden cleanroom in Stevenage, UK.

University College London’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL) designed and built the PanCam, which includes a high-resolution camera provided by DLR.

It will serve as the scientific eyes of the rover once it lands on Mars in 2021.

The camera will provide high-resolution 3D images to be used by the rover’s autonomous navigation system.

According to Airbus, images will be sent back to the Rover Operation Control Center for the scientific team to choose a location. The Rosalind Franklin ExoMars rover will then determine its safest path to travel.

The PanCam will also give textural information such as laminations or pitting, with reference to the presence of organisms. It will be capable of observing atmospheric phenomena such as Mars’ dust particles and water in the atmosphere.

Airbus Defence and Space UK managing director Colin Paynter said: “ExoMars is Europe’s latest flagship space mission and Airbus is at the heart of it.

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“Today’s installation in Stevenage of the powerful PanCam, which will not only provide 3D images of the Martian landscape but also data on the atmosphere, is a major milestone as we move forward to the rover being ready to fly in July 2020.”

The Europe’s first planetary rover is currently being assembled at Airbus in Stevenage.

It features nine instruments that enable scientists to conduct a step-by-step exploration of Mars, starting from a panoramic scale and concluding with the molecular identification of organic compounds.

The autonomous navigation system of the rover is developed by Airbus.

This system allows the rover to travel between sites of interest quicker than by being driven remotely in real-time from Earth.