Mars Lander Prepares For Historic Descent To Red Planet

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Europe’s first Mars rover will search for traces of life on the planet.

A Mars lander is due to leave its mothership on Sunday and head toward the red planet’s surface to test technologies for Europe’s planned first Mars rover, which will search for signs of past and present life.

After a seven-month journey from Earth as part of the European-Russian ExoMars program, the Schiaparelli lander is expected to separate from spacecraft Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) at 10:42 a.m. EDT and start a three-day descent to the surface.

Schiaparelli represents only the second European attempt to land a craft on Mars, after a failed mission by the British landing craft Beagle 2 in 2003.

Landing on Mars, Earth’s neighbor some 35 million miles (56 million km) away, is a notoriously difficult task that has bedevilled most Russian efforts and given NASA trouble as well. The United States currently has two operational rovers on Mars, Curiosity and Opportunity.

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