ESA Lander Near Mars

By Rodney Rafols , Oct 18, 2016 03:55 AM EDT

Europe is near its milestone as the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) and Schiaparelli orbiter is making its final approach to Mars. There was brief tension as the orbiter lost contact with ground control, but with communication resumed the mission is set to make history.

Links with the TGO was re-established last Sunday after briefly losing communication with it, according to Phys Org. TGO lost communication after releasing Schiaparelli. The mission is back on track, as ESA spokeswoman Jocelyne Landeau-Constantin said. The orbiter would be maneuvered safely so that it won't crash into Mars.

While communication with TGO was being restored, Schiaparelli has begun its descent to Mars. The lander was released at an altitude of about one million kilometers above Mars. One of its missions is to test entry and landing, which would pave the way for a more extensive Mars mission later on with the ExoMars project. Earlier it has been reported that the TGO mission is on its way to Mars.

Aside from testing entry and landing, Schiaparelli has what the European Space Agency (ESA) calls as the DREAMS package. This is the Dust Characterization, Risk Assessment and Environmental Analyzer of the Martian Surface. The Schiaparelli rover then would gather samples and explore Mars' surface.

The rover will analyze the wind, humidity, and pressure on Mars, as NPR reports. It will do so as long as its battery permits. TGO will remain in orbit around Mars while Schiaparelli conducts its tests. While in orbit, it will test Mars' atmosphere for any possibility of life on the planet.

The ESA launched TGO and Schiaparelli last March. It is the first phase of Europe's project on the planet. The next project would be launched in 2020 and would be on Mars to save life on it. It would be a joint Europe-Russia mission, just as the TGO mission is.

Mars has become a favorite target for many space agencies since the 1960s, in part since many missions have failed to land there. Europe tried to send a mission in 2003 but the Beagle 2 failed to establish contact in December 2003. Currently,NASA has the Curiosity rover exploring Mars.

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