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European spaceship destroys after hitting Mars surface

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A NASA spacecraft has spotted a new black crater on Mars — the final resting spot of Europes Schiaparelli lander, which apparently slammed into the Martian surface at race vehicle speed and may have exploded on impact. What happened remains a mystery, but ExoMars Project Manger Don McCoy expressed confidence yesterday that after fully analyzing data transmitted from Schiaparelli to TGO during the descent "we will have no doubt" about what transpired.

A cl oser inspection of the features will be taken next week with HiRISE, the highest resolution camera on MRO. At a press conference yesterday, ESA Director General Jan Woerner said he was happy with the mission even if Schiaparelli did not make a survivable landing since its goal was to test these technologies. The agency says that's likely to be Schiaparelli's parachute. The agency said Friday that the spacecraft's rapid fall may have also resulted in an explosion, though analysis is still ongoing. The first is a bright spot of about 12 metres diameter, likely to be Schiaparelli's parachute, ESA said. Less than six minutes later it will have landed on Mars. The impact area is 5.4 kilometers west of its intended landing point and within the planned landing ellipse.

It is hoped they may also reveal the location of the probe's front heat shield, which was discarded at higher altitude.

The paddling pool-sized Schiaparelli craft "crashed on the surface of Mars", Thierry Blancquaert told AFP from European Space Agency (ESA) mission control in Darmstadt, Germany - ending two days of uncertainty about the lander's fate.

ESA member states meeting at a the agency's next ministerial council meeting in Lucerne, Switzerland, in December will be asked to pledge continued support - and funding - for the mission's ambitious second phase.

Schiaparelli was on a test-run for a future rover meant to seek out evidence of life, past or present, on the Red Planet.

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Schiaparelli's main function was to test the automated Russian-designed landing system to be used on ExoMars Rover. We might then still have a chance.

But something went badly wrong about the time the lander was due to jettison its parachute and fire up its retro rockets.

The primary part of the ExoMars mission has, however, been a success so far, as the Schiaparelli lander's mothership has been brought into orbit around Mars, from where it will try to sniff out methane and other gases that might indicate the presence of life.

It was only the second European attempt to land a craft on Mars, after a failed mission by the British landing craft Beagle 2 in 2003.

Meanwhile, the Trace Gas Orbiter will reach Mars on October 19, where it will orbit the planet collecting data on Mars' atmosphere that will help determine whether life could have existed there.

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