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European Space Agency led Mars lander starts descent to red planet

European Space Agency said Schiaparelli will enter the atmosphere Wednesday at a speed of nearly 21,000 kilometers per hour, before being slowed by atmospheric drag and then deploying a parachute and thrusters

The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter and its entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, Schiaparelli are seen approaching Mars. The separation is scheduled to occur, Oct. 16, 2016, about seven months after its launch. (Courtesy - ESA/ATG medialab)

October 17, 2016: A European Space Agency experimental probe is expected to land Wednesday on Mars, as part of a mission aimed at exploring the red planet’s atmosphere and searching for signs of life.

Flight director Michel Denis confirmed the Schiaparelli Mars lander had separated from its mother ship as scheduled Sunday, to applause at mission control center in Darmstadt, Germany.

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As planned, the 600-kilogram probe separated from an unmanned craft called the Trace Gas Orbiter after a seven-month, 496-million-kilometer flight from Earth.

ESA said Schiaparelli will enter the atmosphere Wednesday at a speed of nearly 21,000 kilometers per hour, before being slowed by atmospheric drag and then deploying a parachute and thrusters.

Schiaparelli will take images of Mars and conduct scientific measurements on the surface, but its main purpose is to test technology for a future European Mars rover.

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Meanwhile, TGO will remain in orbit, analyzing methane and other gases in the Martian atmosphere to help determine whether there is or was life on Mars.

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The two crafts are part of the ExoMars mission, a joint venture between ESA and Russia’s Roscosmos space agency, and were launched in March.

In the next stage of the ExoMars program, ESA plans to send a rover to Mars in 2020, equipped with a drill and instruments dedicated to geochemistry and the search for life.

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Scientists have said that landing a spacecraft on Mars is very difficult. ESA’s last attempt to land the Beagle 2 rover on Mars failed at the end of 2003.

Beagle 2 disappeared during the landing process and was declared lost after several months. It was not located until January 2015, when new photos from an orbiter showed that it had reached the surface, but did not fully deploy and start communicating. (VOA)

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American Record-Breaking NASA Astronaut Peggy Whitson Set to Return Back to Earth After 288-Days Space Mission

At the time of their landing, Whitson will have gathered a total of 665 days in space over the course of her career which is more than any American astronaut.

Peggy Whitson
American record-holder NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson. Wikimedia
  • Nasa astronaut Peggy Whitson set to return back to Earth from International Space Station
  • The astronauts return after completing 288 days in space in Expedition 52
  • Peggy Whitson holds the record for the maximum time spend in space by an American astronaut

Washington, September 2, 2017 : NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, who holds the record for maximum time spent in space by any American astronaut, is set to return to Earth on Saturday, completing a 288-day mission at the International Space Station.

Whitson and her Expedition 52 crewmates Jack Fischer of NASA and Fyodor Yurchikhin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos are scheduled to land in Kazakhstan at 9.22 p.m. EDT on Saturday (6.52 a.m. Sunday, India time).

At the time of their landing, she will have accrued a total of 665 days in space over the course of her career, more than any American astronaut, placing her eighth on the all-time space endurance list, NASA said.

Whitson’s return will mark the end of her third long-duration stay onboard the space station.

She launched on November 17 with 377 days in space already under her belt, and on April 24 broke Jeff Williams’ standing US record of 534 cumulative days in space.

Whitson also holds the record for most spacewalks by a female.

Yurchikhin and Fischer, who launched in April, will complete 136 days in space on their return. Yurchikhin will return to Earth with a total of 673 days in space on his five flights, putting him in seventh place on the all-time endurance list.

At the time of undocking, Expedition 53 will begin aboard the station under the command of Randy Bresnik.

Along with his crewmates Sergey Ryazanskiy of Roscosmos and Paolo Nespoli of ESA (European Space Agency), the three-person crew will operate the station until the arrival of three new crew members.

Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba of NASA and Alexander Misurkin of Roscosmos, are scheduled to launch on September 12 from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, NASA said. (IANS)