Mars

Watch Live: ExoMars Arrival and Landing

After a seven month flight, ESA’s ExoMars mission arrives at the Red Planet today, October 19. You can watch live here as the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) and Schiaparelli lander make their historic entry into orbit and landing.

The action starts at 9:09am ET (1:09pm GMT) when TGO fires its main engines for 134 minutes for its Mars Orbit Insertion. That burn should put the orbiter in a highly elliptical orbit which will be refined over the next few months.

Then, at 10:42am EDT (2:42pm GMT), the Schiaparelli lander will begin its six-minute entry, descent and landing through Mars’ atmosphere, coming at about 13,000 mph (21,000 kph). The aeroshell will slow the craft enough for a parachute to deploy, and at about 1 km above the surface, three hydrazine thrusters will ignite and slow Schiaparelli until it is about 6.5 feet (2 meters) above the surface. The lander will then be dropped to the Martian surface.

ESA has put together a video of what a successful landing looks like:

The ExoMars 2016 mission is a collaboration between the European Space Agency (ESA) and Roscosmos. ExoMars will continue the search for biological and geologic activity on Mars, which may have had a much warmer, wetter climate in the past. The TGO orbiter is equipped with a payload of four science instruments supplied by European and Russian scientists that will investigate the source and precisely measure the quantity of the methane and other trace gases.

Artist’s impression depicting the separation of the ExoMars 2016 entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, named Schiaparelli, from the Trace Gas Orbiter, and heading for Mars. Credit: ESA/ATG medialab

Methane is interesting because it can be produced by biology, volcanoes, natural gas and hydrothermal activity. TGO will investigate how methane is produced on Mars, as well as make follow up on measurements from NASA’s Curiosity rover and other instruments and telescopes that have detected methane on Mars.

The 2016 lander will carry an international suite of science instruments and test European entry, descent and landing (EDL) technologies for the 2nd ExoMars mission, which will bring an advanced lander to Mars in 2018.

The battery powered Schiaparelli lander is expected to operate for up to eight days until the battery is depleted.

Schiaparelli lander descent sequence. Image: ESA/ATG medialab
Nancy Atkinson

Nancy has been with Universe Today since 2004. She is the author of a new book on the Apollo program, "Eight Years to the Moon," which shares the stories of 60 engineers and scientists who worked behind the scenes to make landing on the Moon possible. Her first book, "Incredible Stories from Space: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Missions Changing Our View of the Cosmos" tells the stories of those who work on NASA's robotic missions to explore the Solar System and beyond.

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