BERLIN – 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.