Monday, October 17, 2016

The Schiaparelli Mars Lander is on its way!

Mars is about to get another lander!

Yesterday, the European Space Agency's Schiaparelli Mars Lander separated from the Trace Gas Orbiter around Mars and began its descent! This lander is designed mostly with one goal in mind: test out landing technologies that could help in future Mars missions. 

Schiaparelli isn't meant to last long on Mars (a few days of activity at most), but while it is there it will hopefully achieve a couple of small scientific studies to better understand the Martian atmosphere, just as its travel partner, the Trace Gas Orbiter, is doing.

Both the TGO and the lander left Earth back in March of this year. They reached Mars in just about seven months' time. On October 16th, Schiaparelli separated from the TGO and has now started its three-day descent to the Martian surface. The ESA is hoping that its landing will be a demonstration of what works (and possibly, what doesn't) in their suite of landing stage technologies, including heat shield protection, parachute deployment, radar positioning systems, and of course, thrusters.

At first, the ESA couldn't establish contact between the Schiaparelli Lander and the TGO after separation, but contact has since been restored, and all fingers are crossed. With any luck, Wednesday will see a smooth landing.

Go, Schiaparelli, go!