Science

Europe Joins Mars Race, Aims To Find Life On Red Planet

By Rodney Rafols , Oct 15, 2016 03:00 AM EDT

Mars is now the focus of attention for space exploration. NASA has been exploring the planet with the Curiosity rover and other unmanned missions. Private enterprises such as SpaceX are planning to send manned missions to Mars in the near future. Now, Europe is joining in as it sends its own mission to find life on Mars.

Europe tried to send an unmanned mission to Mars thirteen years ago, but that didn't succeed, according to Phys Org. As space exploration turns its focus on Mars, Europe has decided to try sending another unmanned mission, this time teaming up with Russia.

The European Space Agency (ESA) will initially be sending a lander to Mars to pave the way for a much longer Mars mission. The rover is called Schiaparelli and will ride on the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) on its way to Mars. The journey to get there will take seven months. The first mission that TGO and Schiaparelli will do is to orbit Mars and test its atmosphere for any signs of life.

TGO and Schiaparelli would be the first phase of this mission. A second phase would commence in 2020, EurActiv reports. This would be the ExoMars rover. Schiaparelli would also be used in the first mission to test out entry and landing to Mars.

Schiaparelli is expected to separate from TGO on October 16 at around 1430 GMT. It would first orbit the planet before entering on Wednesday from an altitude of 121 kilometers and at a speed of 21,000 kph,

Once it reaches an altitude of 11 kilometers it will slow its descent speed to 1,700 kph at which point a parachute would open to cushion its landing. The lander will then jettison the parachute and its protective outer shell once it reaches a suitable altitude, and from there will have nine speed-controlled thrusters for its landing. From the time it enters Mars' atmosphere to its landing it is estimated that it will take a total of six minutes.

Europe tried to send a mission in 2003 with the British-built Beagle 2, but it lost communication after it separated from its mother ship, the Mars Express. NASA was able to locate it in January 2015. Beagle 2 was able to land safely on Mars but wasn't able to communicate. 

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