Today, October 19, the Schiaparelli lander is expected to finally arrive on Mars. The lander is part of the European-Russian ExoMars 2016 mission. And if everything goes according to the plan and all will be fine, the landing of Schiaparelli will be considered the first successful mission on Mars for both Europe and Russia. Actually, other than NASA, nobody has managed to do such a thing. Until now, if it all goes right.
In 1971, the Soviet Union conducted the first landing on the planet Mars in history. But their probe, called Mars 3, managed to send only one image back home. And nothing could be understood from it. The, after the landing, it went completely silent after 20 seconds. The Beagle 2 probe was another attempt to achieve a Mars landing. It happened in 2003 but unfortunately, after Beagle 2 separated from the mothership, nothing was heard from it ever again. It just disappeared. Until 2015. Scientists announced back then that Beagle 2 actually made a successful landing on Mars. The problem was that it could not get rid of its solar panels so finally, the mission was deemed unsuccessful.
NASA did it before
NASA was actually the one who managed a successful landing on the Red Planet, in 1976, with their Viking 1 and Viking 2 landers. Then, 20 years later, in 1997, NASA did it again. And it was a complete success too. The Pathfinder did its job right and followed the mission exactly. But not everything NASA has done has been successful. In 1999, two years later, the Mars Polar Lander could not complete the mission to the Red Planet.
A once lively planet
NASA’s Curiosity rover has been searching new things on Mars since 2012. And it has found some amazing things. For example, near the place where it landed, Curiosity found that a lake and stream system might have existed billions of years ago. This is solid proof that Mars might have once been exactly like the Earth. Full of life. Right now, Curiosity is searching for the reason why Mars is so desolated, dry and cold in our times. And if it might be possible for people to move there in the future.
But even if Schiaparelli manages to complete its mission, it won stay there long. Eight days maximum. Actually, what scientists want to do is to test out a new technology. This technology will be used for the 2021 ExoMars rover. Its mission will be to hunt life. Finally, we might know if there is indeed life on Mars. Or if there ever was.
All in all, if everything goes right, history will be made right in front of our eyes. The planet Mars has fascinated generation after generation. It is unclear what made people so curious about the Red Planet. But what is certain is that the planet might have some secrets which are buried very deep. And this is what scientists are trying to find. Mars’ secrets. Was it once an inhabitable planet? Or not? Does it still support life? Or most importantly, will it be able to in the future? Only time will tell.
Image source: here