Schiaparelli Landing Site
The Schiaparelli EDM Lander of the ExoMars 2016 is shepherded to Mars by the Trace Gas Orbiter aiming to conduct a multi-year mission studying the Martian atmosphere. Separated from the orbiter three days ahead of arrival, the EDM lander is delivered to a course to intercept the atmosphere for a landing at Meridiani Planum.
Meridiani Planum was chosen for its scientific potential as well as its terrain given the large landing ellipse of the mission, required due to margins in navigation and the use of a ballistic re-entry without active range and cross-track management. Schiaparelli’s landing ellipse if 110 Kilometers long and 25 Kilometers wide, covering a flat area to the west of the landing site of NASA’s Opportunity rover that has been exploring the surface since 2004.
The EDM landing site is characterized by primarily flat terrain dominated by the Burns surface formation and adjacent lave flows covered by wind-blown deposits. Taken into account in the selection process were the relief and slope at different scales as well as the surface reflectivity for the Radar Altimeter used during the landing sequence.
The landing ellipse is centered at 6° West and 2° South, primarily directed from WSW to ENE. Another critical driver for the selection of the site was its low elevation to ensure there is sufficient thickness of the atmosphere to allow the Entry Vehicle to slow down. Located south-east of the landing ellipse is Endeavour Crater, the primary subject of the Opportunity rover since 2011.