Beacon Transcript – ExoMars is near the end of its journey towards the Red Planet as Schiaparelli, its second try at analyzing the planet is set to descent on Mars this Wednesday.
ExoMars, or the partnership between the European Space Agency and Russia, is about to land its first fully European-built spacecraft, the Schiaparelli, on the Red Planet in their first step towards a better understanding of our neighboring planet.
Schiaparelli is ExoMars’ second try at sending a craft to analyze Mars after 13 years ago, the Beagle 2 attempted to land on the planet and was never heard from again, with recent images showing a blockage of the antenna that will not allow for a radio transmission to Earth.
The current craft is named after the first man to chart and create maps of the Red Planet, the Italian Giovanni Schiaparelli, a 19th Century astronomer. The spacecraft is a relatively simple model, whose first purpose will be to test and offer data for a safe landing on Mars.
Launched from a European Orbiter this Sunday, the craft was released from its pod on a satellite. The two devices will each follow its own mission, as the satellite is set to orbit Mars, whilst the craft has begun its three-days descent towards the surface of the planet.
The Schiaparelli, who at the moment is on an un-adjustable course towards Mars, is set to wake up from hibernation sometimes during Wednesday when it will be preparing to penetrate the planet’s atmosphere, operation which is estimated to last around six minutes.
Its targeted landing place is situated in the Meridiani Planum plain, located close to the Martian equator. As the craft is equipped with a downward-facing camera, its descent will be photographed and then analyzed by scientists in order to better equip future landing missions and devices.
Schiaparelli also features a weather station that will gather data on temperature, pressure, humidity, and wind conditions during and after the landing, and a set of sensors which will monitor the craft’s plunge through the planet’s atmosphere.
As the craft doesn’t feature a rechargeable battery, it will have a working autonomy of about eight days after it lands. Its equipment does, however, include modern control algorithms, a Doppler radar guidance system, and a computer that could prove to be of the essence in the continuation of the mission.
If Schiaparelli’s landing is to be proven successful, the second stage of this ExoMars mission will occur in 2020 and will mark the launch of an all European-built rover on board of a Russian rocket, rover whose safe landing will depend on the computer on board of Schiaparelli.
Image Source: Wikimedia