Mars has captured the imagination of the human race for more than 5000 years.

Ancient Egyptian astronomers observed the "wandering star" as it traced across the night sky and, since the end of the 20th century, we have sent various spacecraft to our rust-red neighbour with varying degrees of success.

Tomorrow morning the Schiaparelli module - part of the first of the European Space Agency's two ExoMars missions to search for indications of extraterrestrial life, past and present - will touch down on Mars.

Launched on March 14 this year on a Russian Proton rocket, the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) and accompanying Entry, Descent and landing demonstrator Module (EDM) Schiaparelli travelled more than 140 million km.


Schiaparelli detatched from the TGO last weekend, leaving the orbiter to scan the atmosphere for signs of life-indicating gasses such as methane.

Schiaparelli will land on Mars, recording data on its descent and landing site, in preparation for the space agency's lander and surface probe scheduled for launch in 2020.

These graphics show Schiaparelli's descent from the TGO through Mars' atmosphere and onto the surface of the red planet.

At 11km above the surface of Mars a parachute will open, helping Schiaparelli to slow from travelling at 19,000 km/h to 1700 km/h.

A front shield on the module will detach 7km above the surface of the planet and its radar will activate.

As the module descends closer to the planet the parachute and rear shield will jettison. Thrusters will ignite and the descent will slow to 4km/h.

At 2m above the surface the thrusters switch off and the probe free falls to the ground.