Almost midnight on Christmas (2 hours and 54 minutes GMT) scheduled throughout the culminating event of Mars exploration program this year — on the surface of the Red Planet should fall lander Beagle 2 of the European Space Agency (ESA).
Critical to the success of the program operation — separation of Beagle 2 from automated orbital station Mars Express — was successfully held on Friday, December 19.
This is fortunate, say observers, because Mars continues to surprise. In particular, most recently on approach to Mars permanently disabled Japanese probe "Nozomi". According to scientists, its on-board electronics broke down last solar flares.
At the beginning of last week, specialists Mission Control Center (Darmstadt, Germany) had a late course correction Mars Express. Beagle 2's own propulsion system has not, and for its successful landing in a given area is necessary to accurately reach the target trajectory.
The challenges facing small, according to the latest trends (about 32.5 kg) unit Beagle 2, a disproportionately large-scale. In addition to sending back to Earth images of the surface of Mars, he will find out whether his landing in the signs of the presence of water molecules of carbon and organic compounds. Overall, these data will allow scientists to once again determine whether there is life on Mars. Also, studies will be conducted in the field of geology, to determine the composition of the Martian atmosphere, and studied meteorological conditions in the landing area.
Already early in the morning (GMT) experts hope to get the first pictures of the landscape in the Isidis Planitia. Perhaps the truth is that they will remain "sweet" — the percentage of missions ended in failure, is still alarmingly high.