ExoMars: European Spacecraft Prepares to Land on Mars

The first mission of ESA's ExoMars program, scheduled to arrive at Mars on October 19, 2016, consists of a Trace Gas Orbiter plus an entry, descent, and landing demonstrator module, known as Schiaparelli. The main objectives of this mission are to search for evidence of methane and other trace atmospheric gases that could be signatures of active biological or geological processes, and to test key technologies in preparation for ESA's contribution to subsequent missions to Mars. The Orbiter and Schiaparelli were launched together in March on a Proton rocket. Three days before reaching the atmosphere of Mars, Schiaparelli will be ejected from the Orbiter towards the Red Planet. Schiaparelli will then coast towards its destination, decelerate using aerobraking and a parachute, and then brake with the aid of a thruster system before landing on the surface of the planet.