ESA says robot explorers headed for Mars quest

ESA says robot explorers headed for Mars quest

PanARMENIAN.Net – Europe will send a tiny lander on a scorching, supersonic tumble to Mars on Wednesday, October 19 and place a gas-sniffing probe in orbit around the Red Planet in a daring quest with Russia for extraterrestrial life, AFP reports. High-stakes manoeuvres should see a test lander dubbed Schiaparelli make a dangerous dash for the surface at 1442 GMT, while the Trace Gas Orbiter enters a gravity loop around our planetary neighbour. The pair have made a 496-million-kilometre trek from Earth since their launch in March. They comprise phase one of the ExoMars mission through which Europe and Russia seek to join the United States in roaming the hostile Martian surface. Commands for both spacecraft have already been uploaded, the European Space Agency said on Tuesday, and were ready for execution on Wednesday. All is well for the moment, Schiaparelli manager Thierry Blancquart told AFP. Apart from carrying Schiaparelli towards Mars, the TGO's job will be to test the Red Planet's atmosphere for gases possibly excreted by living organisms, however small or primitive. Paddling pool-sized Schiaparelli, in turn, must test entry and landing technology for a subsequent Mars-drilling rover which will mark the second phase and high point of ExoMars. The first manoeuvre on Wednesday, scheduled for 1304 GMT, will see the TGO execute its most critical command to date — starting a more than two hour-long…

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