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Exomars Update: ESA's Schiaparelli Probe to Land on Mars on Oct. 19

Oct 11, 2016 08:50 AM EDT

All eyes on Mars! The race to Mars is getting more exciting by the day. Like SpaceX, Boeing, China and NASA, ESA is also planning to study the red planet and its Schiaparelli spacecraft is about to land on the red planet this coming Oct. 19.

The European Space Agency's (ESA) ExoMars probe sent the Schiaparelli spacecraft to the red planet and it will land on Oct. 19. Currently, ExoMars scientists are preoccupied with making last minutes configurations before the spacecraft lands on Mars. Scientists at the ESA mission base in Darmstadt, Germany are uploading the final instruction for Schiaparelli's entry, descent and landing. This sensitive information is vital in making a successful landing since it will tell the lander when to detach itself from the Trace Gas Orbiter. The command will also guide the lander during its descent and touchdown to the surface of the red planet.

The commands were split into two batches. The first was already beamed to the lander last Oct. 3; this activated Schiaparelli whose been into hibernation mode while waiting for instructions for its descent. The first command also activated the lander's timer. The second instruction was uploaded last Oct. 7, which includes the information the lander needed to perform entry on the planet and its maneuver for landing.

Schiaparelli works with pre-programmed commands that determine when the execution would start, so a trigger or command is an important step for the complex maneuver to be successful. Schiaparelli is a module designed to prepare ESA for its ExoMars 2020 mission, according to New Atlas. Its host, the Trace Gas Orbiter was sent to Mars last March 14.

Vital data was transmitted to the lander to make sure that the spacecraft is on the right path towards Mars. The lander will slow down after its entry into the Martian atmosphere enabling it to use its thrusters "heat shield" and "aeroshell." The thruster will help the spacecraft land properly on the surface of Mars.

Monitoring the landing of the spacecraft is important especially when scientists from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory predicted that a major dust storm might occur on the red planet in the coming weeks.

"We always knew we could arrive in a dust storm and Schiaparelli was designed with that possibility in mind," ESA project scientist Jorge Vago said in an interview with BBC.

The Trace Gas Orbiter will conduct an engine burn that will be Schiaparelli's headstart; it will send the lander to the red planet's atmosphere for the pre-calculated landing on Oct. 19.


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