The Mars spotlight has been focused on NASA and SpaceX for some time now. One of the top contenders that hasn’t gotten much attention is the ExoMars Schiaparelli spacecraft that will land on 19th october on Mars.
With arrival at Mars set for October 19, ESA mission control in Darmstadt, Germany is busy making last minute adjustments for the Exomars 2016 mission. One key milestone completed last week was the uploading of final instructions for the computer aboard the Schiaparelli entry, descent and landing demonstrator spacecraft.
The main objectives of this mission are to search for evidence of methane and other trace atmospheric gases that could be signatures of active biological or geological processes.
Schiaparelli is programmed to carry out science observations if it survives impact. It will remain active for six hours a day to conserve power, and ESA hopes it will have enough battery power to operate for at least two days.
In addition, Schiaparelli is programmed to use ESA and NASA’s Mars orbiters to relay data back to Earth for analysis.
The only potential concern is weather. Sand particles could start lifting into the atmosphere – which is normal for this Martian season. We all hope that everything will go well.
Once on Mars, Schiaparelli will have two to four Martian days to conduct tests using the science kits on board. After that, its power will have run out.
Schiaparelli serves as a test for even bigger Mars missions for the ESA and Russia—in particular the ExoMars rover mission in 2020, which will be able to drill for soil samples and carry out geochemical studies.
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