#Scientists #ExoMars – ExoMars: British scientists face ‘six minutes of terror’ as Mars probe plunges to surface : British scientists will face ‘six minutes of terror’ next week as the Schiaparelli space probe plunges to the surface of Mars after a seven month journey.
If successful, it will be the first time a European mission has landed on a planet. Although the ill-fated Beagle 2 probe made it to the surface of Mars in 2003, its solar panels failed to open after impact rendering it paralysed and unable to contact Earth.
This time the scientists are taking no chances. The ExoMars mission has been split into two parts with Wednesday’s landing acting as a dummy run ahead of the launch of a European rover in 2020 which will hunt for alien life.
The ExoMars spacecraft launched in March and will arrive at the Red Planet today after a 300 million mile journey before the lander ‘Schiaparelli’ begins its descent to the surface on Wednesday.
The little probe has a short battery life, so will only operate for a few days. The main point of the mission is simply to see if it can be brought down safely, with all its instruments intact.
But it will not all be plain sailing. The lander has to enter the Martian atmosphere at exactly the right angle and carry out a series of operations – timed to the second – if it is to get to the surface in one piece.