Friday, December 06, 2019

ESA is in a Race Against Time to Fix ExoMars' Parachutes

Getting a probe safely to the surface of Mars is not easy: Numerous landing attempts have crashed. Sufficiently slowing a lander in the thin air requires plenty of sophisticated kit, including designer heat shields, powerful retrorockets, and, sometimes, giant airbags. But the European-Russian ExoMars mission is struggling with a bit of technology that hails from the 18th century: parachutes. High-altitude tests earlier this year revealed that ExoMars's chutes were tearing as they were pulled from their bags. The European Space Agency has turned to NASA colleagues for help, and this week, a joint team begins tests to see whether redesigned bags and chutes now work, and if not, why. It could be their last chance to fix the problem and preserve a launch scheduled for July 2020—or face another 2 years of delay.

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