The Mars car’s parachute is further tested at Esrange

The Mars car's parachute is further tested at Esrange

The parachute that the European robot car Exomars will land on the planet Mars will be tested in new tests at Esrange in the spring.

For a week, NASA’s robot car Perseverance landed on Mars, and it was long thought that the European Space Agency ESA would now also have its robot car in the Exomars project on the surface of the red planet, but technical problems including the lander’s huge parachute stopped.

These problems was first discovered in tests at the space base Esrange outside Kiruna, and there the testing will continue this spring, says Kristine Dannenberg, responsible for research issues at the Swedish Space Agency.

– There have been technical challenges with the landing platform and with the parachute system. What is unique about Exomars is that the engineers have chosen the absolute largest parachute that has ever existed, it is even larger than the one that Perseverance uses, says Kristine Dannenberg.

Exomars is one collaboration between ESA and Russian Roskosmos with a robot car that will be able to drill down two meters into the surface of Mars to search for microscopic life. From the beginning, it was to be sent out in 2018, then they aimed for 2020 when it was again as close as possible between Earth and Mars – that was when Perseverance was sent away.

But now they are aiming for September next year, and in order to avoid a crash against the Martian surface, it is important that the problems with the parachute are solved. Kristine Dannenberg at the Swedish Space Agency explains what the problem was.

– During the tests that were done at Esrange outside Kiruna, it was discovered that the bag where the parachute was unpacked was not opened properly, so it was torn apart, she says.

– So you have had to redesign the whole bag. There will be new parachute tests at Esrange in the spring and then follow-up later in the autumn in the USA. It is very complicated and it is the case that Europe has never landed on Mars, so it will be the first time, says Kristine Dannenberg.

You can hear more about Perseverance and the search for life on Mars in this week’s episode of the Science Podcast.





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