A successful Mars landing today will put the European Space Agency on course for a mission to search for life on Mars in 2020.
Today is a big day for the European Space Agency (ESA). It will attempt to land the Schiaparelli spacecraft on Mars and collect data from the surface.
“The way to see this landing is ESA gaining its spurs. This is ESA’s first controlled landing on a planet. So this is a key moment really,” says David Parker, ESA’s director of human spaceflight and robotic exploration.
So far, only Nasa has been successful in performing science on the surface on Mars, unless you count the 14.5 seconds that Russia’s Mars 3 spacecraft spent working after touchdown in 1971 before falling silent. Although even that is one up on the previous ESA Mars landing, when the UK-led Beagle 2 landed safely in 2004 but failed to transmit anything at all.