[meteorite-list] ExoMars Lander Module Named Schiaparelli
From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Fri, 8 Nov 2013 09:31:14 -0800 (PST)
ExoMars Lander Module Named Schiaparelli
European Space Agency
8 November 2013
The entry, descent and landing demonstrator module that will fly on the
2016 ExoMars mission has been named "Schiaparelli" in honour of the
Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli, who famously mapped the Red
Planet's surface features in the 19th century.
ExoMars is a joint endeavour between ESA and Russia's Roscosmos space
agency, and comprises two missions that will be launched to Mars in 2016
The Trace Gas Orbiter and Schiaparelli make up the 2016 mission, while
the ExoMars rover, with its carrier and surface platform, will be launched
in 2018. Working together, the orbiter and rover will search the planet
for signs of life, past and present.
Schiaparelli will prove key technologies for Europe with a controlled
landing on Mars. It will enter the atmosphere at 21 000 km/h and use parachutes
and thrusters to brake to less than 15 km/h before landing less than eight
The module will collect data on the atmosphere during the entry and descent,
and its instruments will perform local environment measurements at the
landing site, which is in a region of plains known as Meridiani Planum.
The 2016 mission will arrive at Mars during the period when seasonal global
dust storms are most likely. Thus the measurements obtained during landing
will provide important information for improving models of the atmosphere
and the mechanisms that trigger dust storms
"Considering the importance of Giovanni Schiaparelli's pioneering
observations of Mars, it was an easy decision to give his name to the
ExoMars module that is paving the way to the further exploration of the
Red Planet," says Alvaro Gimenez, ESA's Director of Science and Robotic
The name was suggested by a group of Italian scientists to the president
of the Italian space agency, who then proposed it to ESA. Italy is the
largest European contributor to the ExoMars program me.
Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli (1835-1910) was an accomplished scientist
who dedicated much of his career to cataloguing and naming the surface
features of Mars. During the "Great Opposition" of 1877, when Mars
was relatively close to Earth, he surveyed the planet by eye through a
telescope and sketched a network of linear features that he saw running
across the surface. He assumed that these were natural water-filled channels
and used the equivalent Italian word, "canali".
This term was often translated into English as "canals", leading to
considerable speculation about whether a network of artificial watercourses
had been excavated by an intelligent civilisation on Mars, perhaps for
However, many of the linear features seen and drawn by Schiaparelli and
others, most notably Percival Lowell, were argued to be optical illusions
resulting from observations by eye. Later photographic images of Mars
did not show them and the arrival of the first space probes at the planet
in the 1960s confirmed it to be the cold, dry place we know today.
Nevertheless, as a result of further space exploration, including ESA's
Mars Express, we also now know that, deep in the Red Planet's past,
water did flow freely in naturally-formed rivers and valleys, in some
way vindicating Schiaparelli's original hypothesis. He also set a precedent
for documenting features on planets, and many of the names he proposed
for the major landscapes of Mars are still in use today.
Schiaparelli is also well known for working out that regular annual meteor
showers emanating from specific regions of the sky are due to Earth's
orbit intercepting trails of debris left by comets as they make their
way through the Solar System. He also made accurate measurements of the
rotation periods of Venus and Mercury and was a strong believer in the
importance of science popularisation: he wrote books on astronomy and
often gave public lectures.
"Schiaparelli's dedication to planetary science and to the communication
of science was recognised worldwide and, as such, we want to celebrate
his achievements by naming a key part of the ExoMars mission after him,"
says Rolf de Groot, Head of the Coordination Office for the Robotic Exploration
Programme at ESA.
He adds: "The Schiaparelli module will not only provide Europe with
the technology for landing on Mars, but will also give us a taste of the
atmosphere and insight into the local environment at a new location on
the planet's surface - exploration that Giovanni Schiaparelli could
only have dreamed of over 135 years ago when he first started sketching
the Red Planet."
For further information, please contact:
ESA Science and Robotic Exploration Communication Officer
Tel: +31 71 565 6799
Mob: +31 61 594 3 954
Email: Markus.Bauer at esa.int
Rolf de Groot
Head of the Coordination Office for the Robotic Exploration Programme
Tel: + 31 71 565 8106
Email: Rolf.de.Groot at esa.int
Received on Fri 08 Nov 2013 12:31:14 PM PST