European lander released to begin final descent to Mars

BERLIN (AP) — The European Space Agency has dispatched an experimental probe on the final leg of its quest to land on Mars — part of a mission aimed at exploring the red planet’s atmosphere and searching for signs of life.

ESA said the Schiaparelli lander separated from its mother ship as scheduled Sunday, preparing the way for a controlled descent to the surface on Wednesday.

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’s mother ship will remain in orbit to analyze gases in the atmosphere.

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

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