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article imageESA uploads final commands for ExoMars spacecraft landing on Mars

By Karen Graham     Oct 12, 2016 in Science
The final commands for the landing of the ExoMars spacecraft have been uploaded in preparation for the joint European Space Agency/Roscosmos “ExoMars” mission's landing on the Martian surface on Sunday.
On March 14, the ESA launched two connected crafts, the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) and its Schiaparelli lander, kicking off the first half of a life-hunting ExoMars mission.
Schiaparelli has been in a state of hibernation the past few months as it clings to the TGO, but in just a few days, the two spacecraft will go their separate ways. The Trace Gas Orbiter will continue its orbit of the planet, looking for Martian atmospheric gases, in particular, methane, which could be a sign of geological or biological activity.
How will Schiaparelli land?
How will Schiaparelli land?
European Space Agency
In the first part of this mission, the 600-kg (1,300 lbs) Schiaparelli will separate from the ExoMars on Sunday, October 16 in preparation for its descent to the surface on October 19. This will be going on as the TGO gets itself into Mars orbit.
Schiaparelli is what is called a "landing demonstrator." The craft “will test a range of technologies to enable a controlled descent and landing on Mars in preparation for future missions, including a heatshield, a parachute, a propulsion system and a crushable structure," according to the ESA. Basically, everything on board is only expected to last about a week or so because this is a "proof of concept" mission.
According to the Register, the heatshield has been designed to withstand entry into the Martian atmosphere at an expected speed of 21,000 kph (13,049 mph). At the right moment, a pair of parachutes will deploy to slow the lander down a bit in preparation for the propulsion system (rockets) to come into play, lowering Schiaparelli to about two meters (6.5 feet) above the planet's surface.
The rockets will then cut off and Schiaparelli will land on the "crushable structure" protecting its bottom. An Entry and Descent Module Descent Camera (DECA) will cover the whole event. The lander has a small science package on board that will be used to measure wind speed, humidity, pressure and temperature at its landing site.
Artist s conception of Schiaparelli on the Martian surface.
Artist's conception of Schiaparelli on the Martian surface.
European Space Agency
The science package also includes instruments that for the first time will obtain measurements of the electric fields on the Martian surface. It is hoped this data will assist us in understanding how dust storms are created on Mars, according to a statement from ESA.
The second part of this mission is, of course, the TGO's work. Along with the lander, the two parts of this mission will help to validate the technologies and be valuable to the ESA's planned 2020 Martian rover mission. The TGO will take a few months to get into optimum orbit. It will actually take almost a year of positioning and braking before it begins its work.
When the TGO is ready, the sampling of the Martian atmosphere's gasses will commence. The ESA and NASA are very curious about the sometimes seasonal and geographic presence of methane on the Red Planet.
More about Esa, exomars spacecraft, trace gas orbiter, esaroscosmos, Schiaparelli
 
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