If everything goes as planned, here's how the ESA's Mars lander will touch down tomorrow

The European Space Agency (ESA) this week is poised to reach a milestone on its groundbreaking ExoMars mission to Mars. On October 19, the agency expects to land its Schiaparelli landing module on the red planet as part of a technology demonstration and data collecting mission.

The space agency already completed a critical stage of the mission on October 16 when the Schiaparelli module separated from the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) and began its descent to the surface of Mars. The module will descend for three days until it encounters Mars’ outer atmosphere, and the final descent and landing will then take under six minutes to complete.

ExoMars is a collaborative effort between the ESA and the Russian Roscosmos space agency. The mission involve two vehicles — the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO), which navigated to the outer edge of the Mars atmosphere, and the Schiaparelli technology demonstration vehicle, which is slated to land on the surface for data collection. This cone-shaped module was attached to the TGO and began its seven-month journey to Mars following a successful launch on March 14.

The TGO and Schiaparelli module traveled through space under the guidance of the ESA with the TGO providing all the power and communications for this first stage of the mission. When the TGO reached Mars orbit on October 16, the Schiaparelli module separated from the TGO and began its 3-day plummet to the planet’s surface. Twelve hours after separation, the TGO automatically corrected its course and continued into orbit around the red planet, while the module began its fiery descent into the Martian atmosphere. The TGO will continue to orbit Mars sending back atmospheric and temperature data to the ESA.

When the module hits the outer atmosphere at an elevation of 121 kilometers on October 19, it will be falling at a speed of nearly 21,000 km/h. During this phase, which lasts only a few minutes, atmospheric resistance will begin slowing down the still-dormant module. An outer aeroshell layer will protect the module from the intense heat experienced during this re-entry phase, which lasts a little more than three minutes. During its descent,  Schiaparelli will communicate with the Orbiter.

Once the module reaches an altitude of 11 kilometers, its rate of descent will have been slowed to 1700 km/h by atmospheric drag and a parachute will be deployed to slow the module down even further. Forty seconds after the parachute opens, the front aeroshell that protected the module during re-entry will be jettisoned, and an altitude-measuring radar will be activated. The parachute will slow down the module to 250 km/h, allowing it to descend gently to a height of 1-2 kilometers.

esa-exomars-breakdown
ESA

At approximately 1 kilometer, the parachute and the back part of the aeroshell will be released, and the module will activate its three hydrazine thrusters to control its speed as it lands. When it is just two meters above the surface of the planet, the thrusters will shut off, and the module will freefall for the rest of its landing.

The module has an impact-resistance lander that will crush upon impact much like the crumple zone on a car. Once it lands on the surface of Mars, the Schiaparelli module will begin the data collection stage of the mission. It also will initiate communication to Earth using the ESA’s Mars Express spacecraft and NASA’s Relay Orbiter.

The historic landing will be live-streamed at on the ESA’s website starting at 3:00 p.m. CET (9 a.m. ET) on October 19. A special edition video will be available via Facebook Live on the ESA’s Facebook page.

Movies & TV

Pedro Pascal officially cast as 'The Mandalorian' as Disney show fills out cast

The Mandalorian, Jon Favreau's live-action Star Wars series planned for Disney's streaming video service, will be one of the most expensive television shows ever made. Here's everything we know about it so far.
Emerging Tech

We’re going to the Red Planet! All the past, present, and future missions to Mars

SpaceX isn't the only organization pining to visit the Red Planet. Here's a detailed list of all operational and planned missions to Mars, along with explanations of their objectives, spacecraft details, and mission proposals.
Computing

Here's our guide to how to charge your laptop using a USB-C cable

Charging via USB-C is a great way to power up your laptop. It only takes one cable and you can use the same one for data as well as power -- perfect for new devices with limited port options.
Apple

Patent highlights Apple's sky-high ambitions for AirPower wireless charger

At its September event last year, Apple unveiled the AirPower -- its new wireless charging mat that will allow you to charge multiple devices at one time. It has not yet been released. Here's everything we know about the device so far.
Deals

Take to the skies with these 5 drones on sale for under $50

On the hunt for some cool tech for under $50? We've rounded up 5 drones under $50 that you can still get before Christmas. These models are great for kids, adults, and anyone just getting started with drones.
Emerging Tech

With this robotic garage, retrieving your car is like using a vending machine

Remembering where we parked our cars can be a real pain. But what if our cars came to find us, rather than the other way around? A new automated robot parking valet system aims to help.
Emerging Tech

A lidar-equipped truck knows exactly how much de-icer to apply on roads

Lidar is best known as the laser-based technology that helps self-driving cars sense their surroundings. But the city of Knoxville has another, more seasonal use for it: De-icing roads.
Cars

Best Products of 2018

Our reception desk has so many brown boxes stacked up, it looks like a loading dock. We’re on a first-name basis with the UPS guy. We get new dishwashers more frequently than most people get new shoes. What we’re trying to say is: We…
Emerging Tech

This unusual nature-inspired robot is equally at home on land or in the water

This intriguing, nature-inspired robot may look unusual, but it's impressively capable of moving on both land and water without problem. Heck, it can even travel on ice if necessary.
Emerging Tech

This cryptocurrency wallet for kids isn’t nearly as stupid as it sounds

So you’ve taught your 6-year-old child to read, write, and play nice with others. What’s next? Give them a base understanding of cryptocurrency, of course. This Kickstarter aims to help.
Emerging Tech

Light, speed: Lighting kit for DJI Mavic 2 lets you fly and film in the dark

Lume Cube, maker of small battery-powered LED lights for mobile photography, has announced a new lighting kit built specifically for the DJI Mavic 2 -- the first of its kind. Already our favorite drone, this makes the Mavic 2 even better.
Emerging Tech

Prepare for liftoff: Here are all the important upcoming SpaceX rocket launches

From ISS resupply missions to a host of communication and scientific satellite launches, SpaceX has a busy year ahead. Here's a rundown of some of the company's most important missions slated for the next year.
Emerging Tech

Virgin Galactic’s latest test flight takes it to the edge of space

Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic has successfully carried out its fourth powered flight in Mojave, California. It was the company's most ambitious test flight yet -- and bodes well for the future.
Emerging Tech

There’s a giant EMP blaster in New Mexico. Don’t worry, it’s here to protect us

An electromagnetic pulse has the potential to disable virtually all electronics within a large area. To help protect against such a threat is a new, friendly EMP emitter. Here's how it works.