Europe’s ExoMars’ Touchdown: October 19th –“The Search for Life Continues”

 

OBU.Schiaparelli-landing

Europe’s ExoMars Entry, Descent and Landing Demonstrator Module, Schiaparelli, will land on a relatively smooth, flat part of Meridiani Planum, just northwest of Endeavour Crater, on 19 October. In this topographic image, red and white represent higher ground, blue and purple, lower lying areas; Endeavour is the central crater picked out in green.


Upon arrival on 19 October, Schiaparelli will test the technology needed for Europe's 2020 rover to land, while its parent craft brakes into an elliptical orbit around Mars.

Artist's impression of the Schiaparelli module on the surface of Mars shows the module, with the parachute and rear cover of the heat shield that were jettisoned 31 seconds before touchdown.

 

Exomars2016_EDM_Descent_18_Landed_20160517_625

 

Once on the surface, a small meteorological station (DREAMS) will operate for a few days. DREAMS will measure local weather conditions at the landing site, such as temperature, humidity, pressure, dust opacity, wind speed, and wind direction. It will also perform measurements of the electrical properties of the Martian atmosphere, the first time this has ever been done.

This week's uploading was conducted by the Orbiter team working at ESA's mission control in Darmstadt, Germany, and marked a significant milestone in readiness for arrival.

Schiaparelli's operations are governed by time-tagged stored commands, ensuring that the lander can conduct its mission even when out of contact with any of the Mars orbiters that will serve as data relays.

Automated operation also ensures that the lander will revive from its power-saving sleep periods on the surface in time for communication links.

The commands were uploaded in two batches. The first, containing the hibernation wake-up timers and the surface science instrument timeline, was uploaded on 3 October. The second, containing the rest of the mission command sequence, was uploaded to the module on 7 October.

One of the most crucial moments will be the moment of landing, set for 14:48:11 UTC (16:48:11 CEST) on 19 October. Now that this time has been fixed, the rest of the commands will play out in sequence counting down or up.

During landing, these 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.

A radar will measure Schiaparelli's height above the surface starting at about 7 km. At around 2 m, Schiaparelli will briefly hover before cutting its thrusters, leaving it to fall freely.

Once safely on the surface, the timeline will operate the science instruments for a planned two days – and possibly longer.

The science activities are designed to make the most of the limited energy available from the batteries, so they will be performed in set windows rather than continuously – typically, for six hours each day. The timeline will also switch on the module's transmitter during a series of fixed slots to send recorded data up to ESA and NASA orbiters passing overhead, which will then transmit the data to Earth.

This image is based on four images taken with the High Resolution Stereo Camera on the European Space Agency’s Mars Express spacecraft. It covers a region between 352.5° and 356.5°E and 4.5°S and 0.5°N.

Image credit: https://www.ras.org.uk/education-and-careers/our-beautiful-universe/2905-our-beautiful-universe-landing-schiaparelli
and http://exploration.esa.int/mars/58412-schiaparelli-readied-for-mars-landing/

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