The Trace Gas Orbiter and the Schiaparelli lander are about to reach Mars
The ExoMars mission is a joint venture between the European Space Agency and the Russian Federal Space Agency. The mission is to figure out if Mars had life or has life. The Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) will take orbit around Mars, which will take about a year, and in 2018, by analyzing the gases in the Mars atmosphere, it will gather data to find any signs of life. It will look for compounds such as methane, which indicates biological activity.
The Schiaparelli will be landing on the Red Planet. Its mission is to demonstrate that the ESA and Roscosmos have the technology that is necessary to safely land hardware on Mars. The next step would be to send a rover in 2021 on a mission to explore the surface and look for signs of biological life.
At 9 am ET, the TGO will ignite its main engine to slow down and the orbiter will move into Mars’ gravity. The TGO’s engine will burn for two and a half hours and during that time, Sciaparelli will move towards Mars and start its descent around 10:42 am ET all the while sending back data to the TGO. A few days after landing the Orbiter may shut down, since it does not have a way to generate its own power.