ExoMars: The Hunt for Life looks at ESA’s latest mission to Mars

An artist's impression of the separation of the ExoMars orbiter and the landing demonstrator module, named Schiaparelli
An artist’s impression of the separation of the ExoMars orbiter and the landing demonstrator module

ExoMars: The Hunt for Life is a documentary about the European Space Agency’s ExoMars mission to look at whether life has ever existed on the Red Planet.

The mission consists of The Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) which is designed to detect gases that might suggest biological or geological activity. There is also a landing demonstrator module (Schiaparelli) that was due to descend to the planet’s surface and test out various technologies for a future rover.

Things reached a critical stage the other day when the landing demonstrator module (Schiaparelli) started its descent from the TGO.

Technology testbed Schiaparelli seems to have run into problems

Unfortunately something seems to have gone wrong with either the parachute or rockets designed to slow the lander on entry.

One of the scientists told the BBC’s Newsnight that it was 50/50 whether the lander had survived and they were analysing the descent data from the orbiter.

A post on ESA’s website today says that it looks like most of the landing steps were completed but that the thrusters mights have fired for less time than expected.

The mission, which is a joint one with Roscosmos, will also continue with a 2020 launch of a rover and science platform.  They will use drills and sophisticated analysis equipment to investigate the surface.

Watch ExoMars: The Hunt for Life tonight at 8 PM on National Geographic Channel.

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