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Schiaparelli To Land On Mars Today: Only One Landing Chance For Probe To Be Successful

First Posted: Oct 19, 2016 05:17 AM EDT
EXOMARS Launch 2016
In this handout photo illustration provided by the European Space Agency (ESA), the payload fairing separates during the ExoMars 2016 launch sequence, the Trace Gas Orbiter and the Schiaparelli entry, descent and landing demonstrator module can be seen as the fairing falls away.
(Photo : ESA / Getty Images)

The Schiaparelli EDM lander which is a part of the European-Russian ExoMars 2016 mission is scheduled to touchdown on Mars at 10:48 a.m. EDT today, if all goes according to plan. The spacecraft will reportedly get only one chance to get captured by the gravity of the Red Planet, which makes the mission landing even more so anticipated. If Schiaparelli makes a smooth landing then the event will make spaceflight history for Europe and Russia, for marking the start of a successful mission on Mars. To date, only the American Space Agency NASA has a presence on the planet.  

Until now, the European Space Agency (ESA) has made only one attempt for a Mars landing with its Beagle 2 probe that took place in December 2003. However, the spacecraft stopped communicating with the mission handlers after detaching from its mothership, the Mars Express orbiter. The fate of the probe remained a mystery until January 2015, when the Beagle 2's remnants were spotted in images sent back by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). The findings suggested that the probe had made a successful landing on Mars but had been unable to deploy all of its solar panels.

On its part Russia, or more correctly the former Soviet Union, had managed to carry off the first ever soft landing on the Red Planet with its Mars probe, which took place in 1971. However, after sending back one incomprehensible image; the Mars 3 probe went silent in a time span of less than 20 seconds after touchdown.

A lot of stakes therefore ride on the success of Schiaparelli's touchdown, especially after the previous experiences that Europe and Russia have had. Incidentally, the Schiaparelli Mars lander separated from its mothership the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) on Sunday. The mission was launched on March 2016, and the spacecraft has covered an approximate distance of 310 million miles across the solar system in the past seven months. The main work of the TGO will be to look for evidences of geological or biological activity on Mars.

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