European Space Agency sends final command sequence as its spacecraft approaches Mars

The European Space Agency uploaded the last of its commands to the ExoMars spacecraft, telling the spacecraft what to do once it arrives at the Red Planet on October 19. The instructions include details on when the Schiaparelli probe should disengage from the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) mothership and how the lander should conduct its descent and touchdown on Mars.

The commands arrived over the course of a few days last week. The first, sent on October 3, functioned like an alarm clock, waking the probe up from its months-long hibernation and providing a timeline for the operation of the spacecraft’s scientific instruments. Four days later, the mission command sequence arrived.

“Uploading the command sequences is a milestone that was achieved following a great deal of intense cooperation between the mission control team and industry specialists,” Orbiter flight director Michel Denis said in a press release.

The ExoMars (ExoBiology on Mars) mission is a two-part joint venture between the ESA and the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), with the primary goal to find signs of past or present life on Mars.

The first phase of the mission, which saw the TGO and Schiaparelli probe launch in March, will involve a rendezvous with the Red Planet later this month. At that time, Schiaparelli will separate from the TGO and dive into the Martian atmosphere. The command sequence sent last week is intended to keep the probe on course before a parachute deploys to slow the craft’s descent and the lander disengages its protective entry shield, firing a set of thrusters to settle into a soft landing.

The agencies hope to test and demonstrate key technologies in this first phase that will be employed in the second phase, which will see a rover land on Mars to search for life in 2020.

Emerging Tech

This exotic new material somehow gets thicker when stretched

Scientists at the U.K.’s University of Leeds have discovered a synthetic material which actually gets thicker the more it’s stretched. Here are some of the things it could be used for.
Emerging Tech

Early-detection system for wildfires could save many states from big burns

When it comes to dealing with the growing problem of raging wildfires, a new wireless smart sensor system could help spot burgeoning blazes before they rage out of control. Here's how it works.
Outdoors

Light up the night! Here are the five best headlamps money can buy

Headlamps make all the difference when camping or walking the dog at night, especially when you're in need of both hands. From Black Diamond and Petzl to Coast here are some of the best headlamps on the market.
Emerging Tech

Elon Musk to unveil tunnel elevators and autonomous pods on December 18

We'll soon learn if Elon Musk's high-speed tunnel plan is a serious effort at ending traffic jams or little more than a fancy theme park ride. A big unveiling event is coming on December 18, a week later than originally planned.
Emerging Tech

The best drone photos from around the world

Most of today's drones come equipped with high-end cameras, which are quickly revolutionizing the world of aerial photography as we know it. Here are some of the best drone photos from around the world.
Emerging Tech

Feast your eyes on the wildest, most elaborate Rube Goldberg machines ever built

Want to see something totally mesmerizing? Check out several of the best Rube Goldberg machines from across the internet, including one that serves cake and other that do ... nothing particularly useful.
Features

Has Columbus, Ohio raised its IQ yet? A progress report from the mayor

Two years ago, the city of Columbus in Ohio received $40 million to pursue smart city initiatives. So, what’s happened since then? We spoke with its mayor, Andrew Ginther, to discuss progress and what’s ahead.
Emerging Tech

The 20 best tech toys for kids will make you wish you were 10 again

Looking for the perfect toy or gadget for your child? Thankfully, we've rounded up some of our personal favorite tech toys, including microscopes, computer kits, and a spherical droid from a galaxy far, far away.
Emerging Tech

Scoot your commute! Here are the 9 best electric scooters on the market

Electric scooters are an affordable, convenient way to minimize your carbon footprint and zip around town. Check out 8 of our current favorites, whether you're working with a budget or have some cash to spare.
Emerging Tech

Sick of walking everywhere? Here are the best electric skateboards you can buy

Thanks for Kickstarter and Indiegogo, electric skateboards are carving a bigger niche than you might think. Whether you're into speed, mileage, or something a bit more stylish, here are the best electric skateboards on the market.
Emerging Tech

Hear the sounds of wind on Mars from InSight’s latest audio recording

NASA's InSight craft has captured the sound of the wind blowing on the surface of Mars. The audio file was picked up by the air pressure sensor and the seismometer which detected vibrations from the 10 to 15 mph winds in the area.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Folding canoes and ultra-fast water filters

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

New experiment casts doubt on claims to have identified dark matter

A South Korean experiment called COSINE-100 has attempted to replicate the claims of dark matter observed by the Italian DAMA/LIBRA experiment, but has failed to replicate the observations.
Emerging Tech

White dwarf star unexpectedly emitting bright ‘supersoft’ X-rays

NASA's Chandra Observatory has discovered a white dwarf star which is emitting supersoft X-rays, calling into question the conventional wisdom about how X-rays are produced by dying stars.