The European Space Agency is dispatching an experimental probe on the final leg of its mission to land on Mars.

The Schiaparelli space lander is to separate from its mother ship at 1442 GMT (10:42 EDT) Sunday in preparation for a controlled descent to the red planet Wednesday.

The probe will take images of Mars and conduct scientific measurements on the surface, but its main purpose is to test technology for a future European Mars rover.

ESA's last attempted Mars landing with the Beagle 2 rover failed in 2003.

Schiaparelli's mother ship will remain in orbit to analyze gases in the Martian atmosphere to help answer whether there is or was life on Mars.

The ExoMars mission is a joint venture between ESA and Russia's Roscosmos space agency.