Sleep? Who needs that when you can watch one of the coolest Martian science missions of the decade blast off for the Red Planet? That’s happening very early tomorrow morning—and if you’re up at odd hours, you won’t want to miss it.
After years of preparation, the European Space Agency and Roscosmos are finally launching ExoMars, the first European mission to Mars since 2003 and the first Russian mission to Mars...well, ever, unless you’re counting the dozen-and-a-half botched USSR attempts. The payload, which will launch on a Russian Proton rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, includes an orbiter that’ll study Mars’ atmosphere, and a proof-of-concept lander. A follow-up 2018 ExoMars mission will bring a fully functional lander to the surface to dig holes in the ground and shout crass insults at Curiosity from across Gale Crater (we can hope).
The launch date was chosen specifically because of the favorable positions of Earth and Mars right now: it should take the ExoMars space probes only seven months to reach the Red Planet. But first, we need a successful launch, something that’s been rather hard to come by of late. The ESA is covering the event live beginning at 8:30 am GMT / 4:30 am EST / 1:30 am PST. Liftoff is scheduled for an hour later, and you can tune in right here: