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Environment & Science

European Space Agency's Mars mission enters red planet's atmopshere




A full-size model of the ExoMars entry, descent and landing module Schiaparelli, with its parachute deployed, was on display in the Netherlands in April. The actual lander is en route to the surface of Mars and set to arrive on Wednesday.
A full-size model of the ExoMars entry, descent and landing module Schiaparelli, with its parachute deployed, was on display in the Netherlands in April. The actual lander is en route to the surface of Mars and set to arrive on Wednesday.
/ESA

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A mission from Earth entered the Martian atmosphere Wednesday morning, but this one wasn't carrying an American flag.

ExoMars is a joint mission between the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Russian space agency, Roscosmos. It consists of two spacecrafts: a landing vehicle and an orbiting vehicle. By Wednesday afternoon, ESA received a signal from the orbiter but was still waiting for a signal from the landing vehicle.

The big picture of the ExoMars mission is to answer the question of whether life has existed on Mars. The landing vehicle will demonstrate it can enter the Martian atmosphere, descend to the planetary surface and land—this is to test out ESA's future landings and missions to Mars. The other part of the mission will orbit and search for evidence of methane and other gasses that could indicate the planet had supported forms of life. In 2020, ESA plans to launch a rover and surface science platform.

Bruce Betts, director of science and technology at the Planetary Society, joined A Martinez in the KPCC studio to talk about ExoMars and other past missions to Mars.

Click the blue audio player to hear the full interview.