Euro­pean lan­der heads for Mars sur­face

The Myanmar Times - - Work -

EUROPE has sent a tiny lan­der on a three-day, 1-mil­lion-kilo­me­tre (621,000-mile) trek to the Mar­tian sur­face to test-drive tech­nol­ogy for a dar­ing mis­sion to scout the Red Planet for ev­i­dence of life.

There were ner­vous mo­ments for ground con­trollers when the un­manned moth­er­ship, dubbed Trace Gas Or­biter (TGO), stopped send­ing sta­tus up­dates just as it despatched the pad­dle pool-sized lan­der, Schi­a­par­elli, on its way on Oc­to­ber 16.

“Ev­ery­thing is back on track,” spokesper­son Jo­ce­lyne Lan­deauCon­stantin of the Euro­pean Space Op­er­a­tions Cen­tre told AFP after an anx­ious hour of re­set­ting com­mands and wait­ing for a re­sponse.

There were “a lot of re­lieved peo­ple” at mis­sion con­trol in Darm­stadt, Ger­many, she added – some 175 mil­lion kilo­me­tres (109 miles) from where the space ma­noeu­vre was ex­e­cuted.

The TGO and Schi­a­par­elli, launched into space in March, com­prise phase one of a joint Euro­peanRus­sian Mars-prob­ing mis­sion named Ex­oMars.

As planned, the 600-kilo­gram (1300-pound) Schi­a­par­elli sep­a­rated from its moth­er­ship after a sev­en­month, 496-mil­lion-kilo­me­tre trek from Earth. It is sched­uled to ar­rive on Mars to­mor­row.

Ex­oMars is Europe’s first at­tempt at reach­ing the planet’s hos­tile sur­face after its first failed bid 13 years ago to place the first nonAmer­i­can rover on Mars.

The TGO’s job will be to sniff the Red Planet’s thin, car­bon diox­iderich at­mos­phere for gases pos­si­bly ex­creted by liv­ing or­gan­isms, how­ever small or prim­i­tive. –

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