The Schiaparelli Probe has started its mission to explore the red planet’s atmosphere and a search for life. The European Space Agency said Schiaparelli separated from its mother ship on Sunday.
Flight director Michel Denis made the announcement about the probe in Darmstadt, Germany. The Mars lander will make its final descent to the planet’s surface during the next 48 hours.
The probe will take high-resolution images of Mars and will take measurements on the surface for scientists to study. The primary purpose of its mission is to test technology for a future rover by the European Space Agency.
Schiaparelli’s mother ship, named Trace Gas Orbiter, will continue to analyze methane and other gasses in the Martian atmosphere. Scientists will use the information to determine whether there is or was life on the planet.
Methane is created by biological activity and breaks down once it reaches the atmosphere. This is a process that takes a relatively short period of time.
The European probe and the mother ship are part of the ExoMars mission. It’s a joint venture with ESA and Russia’s Roscosmos space agency that launched in March.
ESA says Schiaparelli will descent from the atmosphere on Wednesday at a speed of nearly 13,000 mph before it deploys a parachute and thrusts.
The 1,272-pound probe will collect scientific data during its descent and operate on the Mars surface for a couple of days. The lander has weather sensors designed to measure wind speed, humidity, and temperature.