On 16 October, seven months and 500 million km after launching from Baikonur in Kazakhstan, the joint European and Russian ExoMars 2016 mission reaches a crucial phase.

The Trace Gas Orbiter will release its Schiaparelli lander for a three day coast and a six minute descent to the Martian surface.The lander, which was designed to demonstrate technologies for entry, descent and landing on Mars, is heading for the Meridiani Planum. This is an area that is currently being studied by NASA’s Opportunity rover and Europe’s Mars Express orbiter.

On 19 October, the Schiaparelli lander will be activated a few hours before reaching the Martian atmosphere, when it will be travelling at some 21 000 km/h. The front heatshield – covered with 90 insulating tiles – will be subjected to temperatures of up to 1500 degrees Celsius.

This video covers the separation, descent and landing procedures, as well as the orbiter’s critical burn to avoid crashing on the surface of Mars.