Mars, we've got our eyes on you. Next week, a European spacecraft will make a challenging entry into the Martian atmosphere to deploy a lander on the surface. Called Schiaparelli, the little lander is expected to demonstrate future landing technologies while doing at least a few days of observations on Mars. This is the first half of a two-part mission; the second half of ExoMars will be composed of a sophisticated "biosignature"-hunting rover that will launch to the Red Planet in 2020. But first, the trailblazing Schiaparelli will lead the way, testing key technologies behind a successful landing on Mars. Here are some of the milestones during Schiaparelli's descent:

1) Separation


Schiaparelli separates from the Trace Gas Orbiter above Mars, in this artist's impression. Credit: ESA/ATG medialab


The first major milestone for the landing has already passed. Last week, the European Space Agency sent commands to Schiaparelli to prepare for it landing. Commands were sent up in two rounds -- hibernation wake-ups and science work on Oct. 3, and the command sequence for landing on Oct. 7. The goal is for Schiaparelli to work autonomously as it gets ready for landing; as it takes an average of 40 minutes' round trip to send commands between Earth and Mars, any lander must make it to the surface on its own.

Schiaparelli has been riding on the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) for the past several months, but soon it will be time for each of the spacecraft to go their separate ways. On Oct. 16 (Sunday), Schiaparelli will separate from its carrier craft in preparation for the descent. On Oct. 19, Schiaparelli will make a descent to the surface while the TGO arrives in Mars orbit.

2) The Landing Zone


The landing ellipse of Schiaparelli is shown in this picture from ExoMars. Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO


Once Schiaparelli leaves its host spacecraft, it will make a run at this landing site (circled) in Meridani Planum. The landing demonstrator is expected to land in a flat, smooth region just west of Endeavour crater, which NASA's Spirit opportunity rover is currently exploring. The region just to the south of Schiaparelli's landing site shows a number of grooved channels. The European Space Agency says they were likely carved by water. Also visible in the picture is Bopolu crater, a newer impact site within the much larger Miyamoto crater.

While Schiaparelli works below, the Trace Gas Orbiter will continue a separate mission to look at Martian atmospheric gases -- particularly methane, which could be a sign of geological or biological activity. Finding methane on Mars has been a historically difficult endeavor, with different spacecraft and telescopes measuring different abundances. Even the Curiosity rover spotted an increase int he gas, but the spike was not repeated at the same seasonal time as the mission continued into another Martian year.

3) 13,000 mph to Zero in 6 Minutes


Shielded in its protective heat shield, Schiaparelli falls to Mars in an artist's impression. Credit: ESA/ATG medialab


Schiaparelli will ride in a protective shell for most of the journey down to the surface. It's needed to protect delicate spacecraft components from the challenging entry -- traveling at 13,000 miles per hour! -- into the Martian atmosphere, which is thinner than Earth's but still thick enough to burn up a spacecraft riding down in the wrong orientation. As the spacecraft makes the descent, command sequences will have to work precisely to get the science package down safely for further observation. It will only take six minutes from entry into Mars' upper atmosphere to landing.

Mars has traditionally been a challenging planet for NASA, ESA and other agencies. In 2003, ESA attempted to send down the Beagle 2 lander on the Martian surface. The lander vanished from view and was not found again until high-resolution imagery of its site revealed the craft in 2015. The lander appeared intact, but its solar panels had only partially deployed.

4) Parachute


A parachute pops above Schiaparelli in this artist's impression. Credit: ESA/ATG medialab


Mars has a thin atmosphere, but it is thick enough to eventually slow down the Schiaparelli capsule as it falls to the surface. When Schiaparelli is about 11 kilometers (6.8 miles) from the surface and travelling at 1,700 km/h (1,056 mph), a parachute will pop out and slow its descent to a more reasonable 240 km/h (149 mph). At that point, the parachute will be jettisoned as Schiaparelli falls to the surface.

"The parachute is a 'disc-gap-band' type - the type that was used for the ESA Huygens probe descent to Titan [Saturn's moon] and for all NASA planetary entries so far," ESA wrote in a statement.

5) Touchdown 


Schiaparelli on the surface of Mars, in this artist's impression. Credit: ESA/ATG medialab


After losing the parachute, Schiaparelli will make a complicated descent to the surface. "Commands include ejecting the front and back aeroshells, operating the descent sensors, deploying the braking parachute and activating three groups of hydrazine thrusters to control its touchdown speed," ESA wrote in a statement. "A radar will measure Schiaparelli's height above the surface starting at about 7 km (4.3 miles). At around 2 m (6.5 feet), Schiaparelli will briefly hover before cutting its thrusters, leaving it to fall freely. A collapsible structure under the lander will absorb the shock of impact.

Schiaparelli represents just the beginning for ESA. The agency plans to send its first rover to the surface of Mars in the next phase of the ExoMars mission. Additionally, the technologies tested by Schiaparelli could be used in future missions. The lander is designed to operate for two days on the surface, but it could be longer.

"Schiaparelli also carries a small science package that will record the wind speed, humidity, pressure and temperature at its landing site, as well as obtain the first measurements of electric fields on the surface of Mars that may provide insight into how dust storms are triggered," ESA wrote in another statement.

Quelle: Seeker


Update: 14.10.2016


Simulating Schiaparelli's descent camera view
12 October 2016

As the ExoMars Schiaparelli module descends onto Mars on 19 October it will capture 15 images of the approaching surface. Scientists have simulated the view we can expect to see from the descent camera.

Schiaparelli will separate from its mothership, the Trace Gas Orbiter, on 16 October, with some six million km still to travel before entering the atmosphere of Mars at 14:42 GMT three days later.

Its descent will take just under six minutes, using a heatshield, parachute, thrusters and a crushable structure for the landing.

Schiaparelli is primarily a technology demonstrator to test entry, descent and landing technologies for future missions and is therefore designed to operate for a only few days.

The small surface science package will take readings of the atmosphere, but there is no scientific camera like those found on other landers or rovers – including the ExoMars rover that is planned for launch in 2020.

The lander does, however, carry ESA’s small, 0.6 kg technical camera, a refurbished spare flight model of the Visual Monitoring Camera flown on ESA’s Herschel/Planck spacecraft to image the separation of the two craft after their joint launch.

Simulated view of Schiaparelli’s descent images

Its role is to capture 15 black and white images during the descent that will be used to help reconstruct the module’s trajectory and its motion, as well giving context information for the final touchdown site.

The wide, 60º field-of-view will deliver a broad look at the landscape below, to maximise the chances of seeing features that will help to pinpoint the landing site and reveal Schiaparelli’s attitude and position during descent.

The camera will start taking images around a minute after Schiaparelli’s front shield is jettisoned, when the module is predicted to be about 3 km above the surface. This will result in images covering about 17 sq km on the surface.

Schiaparelli’s camera sequence

The images will be taken at 1.5 s intervals, ending at an altitude of about 1.5 km, covering an area of roughly 4.6 sq km.

Then, at an altitude of about 1.2 km, the parachute and rear cover will be jettisoned, and the thrusters ignited. The thrusters will cut out just 2 m above the surface, with the module’s crushable structure absorbing the force of impact.

Schiaparelli will target the centre of a 100 km x 15 km landing ellipse, in a relatively flat area in Meridiani Planum, close to the equator in the southern hemisphere. This region has been imaged extensively from orbit, including by ESA’s Mars Express and NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Quelle: ESA


Update: 15.10.2016



ExoMars 2016 approaching Mars



Updates from ESA’s space operations centre as the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter approaches and enters orbit around the Red Planet, and the Schiaparelli module lands on its surface

Updates on this page will cover the following expected milestones:

14 October: TGO final trajectory manoeuvre (08:45 GMT)
16 October: Separation of Schiaparelli from TGO at 14:42 GMT / 16:42 CEST 
17 October: TGO orbit-raising manoeuvre at 02:42 GMT / 04:42 CEST
19 October: TGO Mars orbit insertion and Schiaparelli entry, descent and landing on Mars (atmospheric entry expected 14:42 GMT / 16:42 CEST, landing 14:48 GMT / 16:48 CEST)
20 October: Update on Schiaparelli status; descent images expected 
21+ October: Schiaparelli status reports until end of mission
Note: Times shown above are actual event times at Mars; the one-way signal travel time between Earth and Mars is currently just under 10 minutes. 

The events of 16, 19 and 20 October will also be livestreamed here, all other events will be reported on this page and via Twitter from @esaoperations, @ESA_ExoMars, @ESA_TGO and @ESA_EDM, and via the hashtag #ExoMars.

Updates will appear below


15 October

At ESOC today: The ExoMars/TGO mission control team begins working from the large, general-purpose Main Control Room as of 02:00CEST. Activities include spacecraft health and status check-outs and ground station tracking passes to support the highly accurate 'delta DOR' navigation technique. By this evening, all files and configuration settings needed to support separation will be finalised. Separation is set for 14:42 GMT (16:42 CEST) spacecraft time tomorrow.

For separation, releasing a 577-kg lander will make TGO wobble. This could affect the very sensitive antenna pointing needed to ensure a full data link, so mission controllers will monitor progress only via the basic radio carrier signal, with the signal acting like a beacon. The separation wobble will be visible in the Doppler data associated with the carrier signal. With a one-way signal time of about 9 min and 45 secs, mission controllers will see a first indication of progress around 16:52 CEST. A full confirmation will come later (around 17:15 CEST) once controllers re-establish the full data link with the spacecraft.

14 October 

18:35 CEST: Our coverage of separation on Sunday, 16 October, set for 14:42 GMT (16:42 CEST) spacecraft time, will begin a bit earlier than previously announced. You can watch a live webstream from ESA's mission control centre, Darmstadt, Germany, starting at 16:30 CEST.

14:05 CEST: The final pre-arrival orbit correction manoeuvre that took place at 10:45 CEST went very well. This burn was the last push needed to perfectly line TGO up on the right orbit to deliver Schiaparelli onto the surface three days after separation on Sunday. Flight Director Michel Denis reports a very tiny overperformance from TGO's thrusters, but the burn was overall very good. The next manoeuvre is scheduled for 12 hours after separation, at 04:42 CEST on 17 October, and will raise TGO's orbit above the planet.

10:25 CEST: This morning, the final pre-arrival team briefing was held at ESOC for everyone involved in ExoMars. Teams at ESTEC and from industry listened in via audio conference. The briefing was held to review and confirm readiness for separation on 16 October and arrival at Mars on 19 October. ExoMars/TGO orbiter and Schiaparelli demonstration lander health/status? Both GO for arrival. Schiaparelli is GO for entry, descent, landing and surface operations. TGO is GO for Mars orbit insertion. At our ESOC mission control centre: Simulation training complete; teams from Flight Dynamics, Flight Control, the ESA ground stations, networks and systems are all GO. NASA ground stations have also confirmed readiness to support. ESA's ExoMars Project Manager Don McCoy said: "People have put their hearts and souls into this. We're ready to go. Thank you to everyone."

08:50 CEST: This morning at 08:45 GMT (10:45 CEST) ExoMars/TGO will conduct the final orbit correction manoeuvre before separation on 16 October. The manoeuvre means that TGO's thrusters will be fired for a minute or so to deliver a change in speed and direction of just 1.4 cm/second. This burn will refine the already highly accurate orbit, and line TGO up to deliver Schiaparelli on to its intended landing site on Mars.





  • Title Parachute for Mars
  • Released 04/10/2016 11:40 am
  • Copyright ESA–S. Muirhead
  • Description

    A full-size model of the ExoMars entry, descent and landing module, Schiaparelli, with its parachute deployed was revealed on ESA’s open day last Sunday in the Netherlands.

    Weighing 600 kg, Schiaparelli is part of the joint ESA–Roscosmos ExoMars mission that will arrive at the Red Planet on 19 October. It will demonstrate Europe’s technology for a controlled landing on Mars, including the 12 m-diameter parachute.

    The landing will take about six minutes, with the canopy deploying at a speed of 1700 km/h. In less than two minutes the parachute will slow the lander down to 240 km/h before being jettisoned at around 1 km above the surface.

    Thrusters will then begin firing to control the probe’s speed, with the surface contact cushioned by a crushable structure on the underside of the module. 

    The module is housed inside the descent capsule in this picture – the rear cover and heatshield are discarded during descent.

    Although it is on display, the ExoMars teams need to access the engineering model for diagnostics or checks because it is a replica of the module flying to Mars.




Landemodul Schiaparelli und der Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO)
13 Oktober 2016

"Show Down" - am Mittwoch, den 19. Oktober 2016 um 18:20 Uhr mitteleuropäischer Sommerzeit wird es soweit sein: Alle Augen werden für die ExoMars-Landung auf den Hauptkontrollraum des Europäischen Raumfahrtkontrollzentrums ESA/ESOC in Darmstadt gerichtet sein.

An der Technischen Universität Darmstadt findet dazu eine öffentliche Informationsveranstaltung mit Live-Schaltungen ins ESOC statt. 

In Kooperation mit der Europäischen Raumfahrtorganisation ESA 

Die erste Raumsonde des Zwillingsgespanns ExoMars wird in den Mars-Orbit einschwenken und die Landekapsel "Schiaparelli" wird ihren turbulenten Flug durch die Marsatmosphäre beendet haben. In diesen Minuten werden alle gespannt auf die Funksignale der Sonde warten, welche die erste erfolgreiche Landung Europas auf dem Nachbarplaneten bestätigen sollen. Nach der erfolgreichen Landung von Schiaparelli und systematischen Messungen der ExoMars-Muttersonde aus dem Marsorbit wird dann 2020 das zweite Element der Zwillingsmission auf dem Mars spannende Untersuchungen unternehmen: Ein Rover soll dann erstmals Proben aus der Tiefe des Marsbodens entnehmen und vor Ort analysieren.

Suche nach "Aliens" auf dem Mars?

ExoMars sucht nach Spuren von Leben auf dem Mars, welche man ausschließlich unterhalb der Marsoberfläche erwartet. Die Mission soll ein weiteres Mosaiksteinchen liefern für die Beantwortung einer der großen Frage der Menschheit: Wo kommt das Leben her? Ist es auf der Erde entstanden? Welche Bedeutung hat der Mars im Hinblick auf die Entstehung und Verbreitung des Lebens in unserem Sonnensystem? Am 19. Oktober findet nun der Auftakt zu der spektakulären Mission mit der Landung des Schiaparelli-Moduls auf dem Mars statt. Gesteuert wird die Raumfahrtmission vom Raumfahrtkontrollzentrum der ESA (ESOC) in Darmstadt.

Die Wissenschaftsstadt Darmstadt ist mittendrin

Mission controllers at work in the Main Control Room, ESOC, Germany
Hauptkontrollraum der ESA in Darmstadt

Im Rahmen der Kooperation zwischen TU Darmstadt und ESOC findet in der Maschinenhalle der Universität (S1|05, 122) eine öffentliche Informations- und Diskussionsveranstaltung parallel zur formellen ESA-Veranstaltung am Kontrollzentrum ESOC statt. Studierende der TU und auch interessierte, externe Besucher können den Fortschritt der Mission in Live-Schaltungen aus dem berühmten Hauptkontrollraum des ESOC mitverfolgen, und Fachleute der ESA informieren per Videoschaltung über die wissenschaftlichen und technischen Hintergründe der äußerst anspruchsvollen Mission. Den Rahmen der Veranstaltung bildet jedoch ein hochwertiges Informationsprogramm speziell für Angehörige der Universität (Studierende, Wissenschaftler, Professoren) und externe, naturwissenschaftlich interessierte Gäste. Experten der ESA führen ein in Aufgaben und Tätigkeiten der ESA und von ESA/ESOC in Darmstadt und informieren über Möglichkeiten für Studierende und TU-Absolventen für Ausbildung und Karriere bei der ESA. Weiterhin berichten Studierende selbst über ihre Erfahrungen bei studentischen/akademischen Arbeiten mit der ESA, und schliesslich werden "Cool Topics", interessante technisch/wissenschaftliche Themen aus dem Kooperationsbereich ESA/TU vorgestellt.

Das Angebot richtet sich an alle Angehörigen der TU Darmstadt, aber auch an externe Gäste. Eine Voranmeldung ist nicht erforderlich.

Quelle: ESA