>> Headed for the red planet, the disc-shaped Schiaparelli lander separating from its mothership early on Monday. It's due to land on Wednesday in a six minute, white knuckle ride. Reuters correspondent Maria Sheahan says the landing is a notoriously difficult task.>> Landing on Mars is very difficult. So far, more attempts to land on Mars have failed than have succeeded.
There are boulders to run into, there are unpredictable winds, and there are dust storms. The Schiaparelli lander will only survive on the surface for a few days. It's main purpose is to test the landing technology for Europe's rover, which will follow in 2020.>> The mission is looking for signs of life, past or present, little chance it will find that on the surface which is an unrelentingly hostile environment.
If there is life, most scientists think it would be buried in the Martian soil. Evidence, either way, may have to wait for the next probe.>> In terms of the lander, it's, basically, a dress rehearsal. But the craft on which the lander travel to Mars also has an atmospheric probe, and that probe will spend several years looking for trace gases that indicate past and present life on Mars.
>> By then, there might be a familiar kind of life on Mars. US billionaire, Elon Musk, pledging to send humans there within a decade. By the time they get there, we might know if there are any locals around to form a welcoming committee.