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The Mission
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Entry, Descent, and Landing

What is Entry, Descent, and Landing?

Mars Express
Image courtesy of ESA.
The entry, descent, and landing (EDL) phase begins when the spacecraft reaches the Mars atmospheric entry interface point (3522.2 kilometers or about 2,113 miles from the center of Mars) and ends with the lander on the surface of Mars in a safe state.

What will happen during Entry, Descent, and Landing?

Five days before reaching Mars in December 2003, a spring mechanism on board Mars Express will eject the Beagle 2 lander. The heat resistant shield will protect it as friction with the upper atmosphere slows it down. When its speed has fallen to about 1600 kilometers per hour (994 miles per hour), parachutes will deploy to slow it further. Finally, large gas-filled airbags will inflate to protect it as it bounces to a halt on Isidis Planitia, the selected landing site. Isidis Planitia is a large flat basin where water may once have existed and where traces of any past or present life might be preserved.

As soon as the lander has come to a halt, the gas-filled bags will be released and the outer casing will open. First, solar panels will unfold and catch sunlight that will charge the batteries, which will power the lander and its experiments throughout the mission. Next, a robotic arm will extend. Attached to the end of the arm is Beagle's PAW (Position Adjustable Workbench) where most of the experiments are located. The PAW's first job will be to move around so that the cameras attached to it can provide a view of the landing site.

Beagle 2 must accomplish its mission in just 180 sols, or 185 Earth days. The first few days will be spent imaging the site and running the environmental sensors, and then the lander will start doing very detailed rock and soil analysis.

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