Schiaparelli Probe Likely Crash-Landed on Mars, Photos Show
Oct 22 2016 by Michele Stevens
But contact to the vehicle was lost around 50 seconds before the expected landing time, leaving its fate uncertain until the NASA images were received.
NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter sent back images of Schiaparelli's landing site, Meridiani Planum, showing the spacecraft and its landing technology scattered nearby. The ESA hoped to use data from Schiaparelli's lading to develop a landing system for their 2020 rover, but it's now possible that the crash landing forces them to reevaluate their timetable.
Schiaparelli launched this past March along with the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO).
The location information gained from acquiring the CTX image will be used for imaging the site with the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera.
The picture taken by NASA's orbiter shows two features that weren't visible on the surface when the spacecraft photographed the area in May. The parachute was built to slow Schiaparelli down from 1,700KPH to 250KPH before detaching and allowing the probe to make the final descent under rocket power.
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In a blog post on Friday, the agency said the capsule dropped from a height of between two and four kilometers (1.2 and 2.5 miles), which would result in an impact speed of almost 200mph. And because Schiaparelli still had fuel left in its tank, the craft may have exploded on impact. "This is interpreted as arising from the impact of the Schiaparelli module itself following a much longer free fall than planned, after the thrusters were switched off prematurely", ESA said in today's status report.
The lander was the second of a two-part European mission that reached the red planet on 19 October.
A space probe that was supposed to look for signs of life on Mars has crash-landed and may have exploded, the European Space Agency has confirmed. The 49-by-131 foot burnt hole where a lander should be is a little over three miles west of Schiaparelli's intended landing spot. The Red Planet's tenuous atmosphere is just thick enough to heat up objects via compression shock and some friction when they try to land. The orbiter is also going to act as a radio relay for the next stage of the ExoMars mission and other future attempts to land on the planet.
It will then be ready for the planned aerobraking manoeuvres starting in March 2017 and continuing for most of the year, bringing it into a 400-km altitude circular orbit around Mars.