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ExoMars Update: Schiaparelli Lander Detached from Mothership, Begins 3-Day Descent

Oct 18, 2016 04:00 AM EDT
ExoMars 2016 Launch
ESA's Schiaparelli lander detached from its mothership and is on its way to complete a 3-day descent to Mars with an expected arrival date on Oct. 19.
(Photo : Jessica Fenol)

While everyone else is preparing to send humans to Mars, ESA, with its ExoMars mission, is almost ready to land on the red planet. The Schiaparelli spacecraft has reportedly detached from its mothership and has already begun its 3-day descent to Mars with an estimated arrival on Oct. 19.

The European Space Agency (ESA) is making history with its Schiaparelli lander for its ExoMars mission. It will arrive on Mars in a matter of days and will attempt a tricky landing. This is also the first lander from ESA to reach the red planet in almost 15 years.

Schiaparelli will be monitoring the Martian weather, something that is proven to be constantly changing. And, of course, the Schiaparelli lander will also help in searching for any signs of life on Mars. ESA's lander will also put to test the new landing system that will be very useful for future lander design and deep space exploration missions.

ESA is hopeful that its new Schiaparelli lander will perform better than its older version, the Beagle 2 that got lost on Dec. 25, 2003. Schiaparelli is expected to complete its three-day descent on Wednesday with a touchdown on Mars.

Read: ESA's ExoMars to Land Schiaparelli Demonstrator on the Red Planet

But before reaching Mars, the lander, a joint project of Europe and Russia traveled for at least 310 million miles from last March in order to reach the red planet. "Landing on Mars has always been a perilous endeavor, not least because Mars has an active atmosphere and weather," Stephen Lewis of the Open University, part of the team behind ExoMars said in a statement. "Understanding the atmosphere on Mars now, and how Mars' climate has changed, is a key part of finding out whether the planet ever had a habitable environment and supports our understanding of our own climate," Lewis added.

Before the descent, it was reported that in order to control the lander, several batches of commands would be sent to Schiaparelli to initiate descent and to activate the landing gear that will help the spacecraft touch down safely on the red planet.


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