Europe

Experimental European Mars probe set for landing on Mars

  • In this artist impression provided by the European Space Agency, ESA, the  ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, TGO, right, and its entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, Schiaparelli, center, approaching Mars. The separation was scheduled to occur on Sunday Oct. 16, about seven months after launch. Schiaparelli is set to enter the martian atmosphere on Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016 while TGO will enter orbit around Mars. 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.  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. (ESA ATG/medialab via AP)

    In this artist impression provided by the European Space Agency, ESA, the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, TGO, right, and its entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, Schiaparelli, center, approaching Mars. The separation was scheduled to occur on Sunday Oct. 16, about seven months after launch. Schiaparelli is set to enter the martian atmosphere on Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016 while TGO will enter orbit around Mars. 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. 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. (ESA ATG/medialab via AP)  (The Associated Press)

  • Artist’s impression provided by the European Space Agency, ESA, depicting the separation of the ExoMars 2016 entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, named Schiaparelli, center, from the Trace Gas Orbiter, TGO, left, and heading for Mars. The separation was scheduled to occur on Sunday, Oct. 16, about seven months after launch. Schiaparelli is set to enter the martian atmosphere on Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016 while TGO will enter orbit around Mars. 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.  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.  (ESA/D. Ducros via AP)

    Artist’s impression provided by the European Space Agency, ESA, depicting the separation of the ExoMars 2016 entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, named Schiaparelli, center, from the Trace Gas Orbiter, TGO, left, and heading for Mars. The separation was scheduled to occur on Sunday, Oct. 16, about seven months after launch. Schiaparelli is set to enter the martian atmosphere on Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016 while TGO will enter orbit around Mars. 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. 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. (ESA/D. Ducros via AP)  (The Associated Press)

  • Employees sit in the contol center of the European Space Agency (ESA) in Darmstadt, Germany, Wednesday Oct. 19, 2016. ESA and its Russian partner Roscosmos hope for a  successful landing of the joint space probe of mission ExoMars on Mars.  (Uwe Ansspach/dpa via AP)

    Employees sit in the contol center of the European Space Agency (ESA) in Darmstadt, Germany, Wednesday Oct. 19, 2016. ESA and its Russian partner Roscosmos hope for a successful landing of the joint space probe of mission ExoMars on Mars. (Uwe Ansspach/dpa via AP)  (The Associated Press)

The European Space Agency is preparing to land an experimental probe on Mars, part of a mission that also will analyze the red planet's atmosphere to help determine whether there is or was life there.

ESA plans to put the Schiaparelli lander on the surface Wednesday following a controlled descent lasting less than six minutes.

Schiaparelli 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 is part of the ExoMars program, a joint venture between ESA and Russia's Roscosmos. Its mother ship, the Trace Gas Orbiter, is to analyze methane and other gases in the atmosphere.