Schiaparelli on Mars.

Explaining Science (formerly The Science Geek)

On 14 March 2016 the European Space Agency used facilities at  Baikonur in Kazakhstan to launch their long awaited mission to Mars, the not so snappily named ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) and, bolted onto it, a smaller probe called Schiaparelli. Although the much larger TGO will only orbit Mars, next Wednesday, 19 October, Schiaparelli will attempt to land on the surface of of the planet, after its seven month journey.

schiaparelli-on-mars

What Schiaparelli might look like on Mars’s surface – Image from ESA

Assuming all goes well, the spacecraft will land on a flat area called Meridiani Planum, close to the equator. Currently this region on Mars is in its dust storm season. Dust storms occur often on Mars and can be very large, covering an area the size of the US, and may last for many weeks. During a dust storm the dust is so thick that it is not possible to see the Martian surface from…

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