Reports indicate that a probe on its way to the surface has crashed and exploded.
Despite tremendously high hopes and millions upon millions of dollars, it now appears that the European Space Agency’s ExoMars Schiaparelli spacecraft has crashed into the Red Planet and exploded. That means that scientists won’t be able to do the limited experiments they planned on doing, and it also marks a setback for a future mission to search for life on Mars.
NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance orbiter has provided some photos that scientists believe show ESA’s ExoMars Schiaparelli spacecraft, or at least what’s left of it. The markings on the surface are clear and weren’t there before the pictures were taken. Schiaparelli attempted to make its landing on Oct. 19, but it lost contact shortly before touchdown.
Meanwhile, the Trace Gas Orbiter, which delivered the Schiaparelli spacecraft, is orbiting Mars and is sending back data that scientists hope will figure out what went wrong.
“A NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Context Camera (CTX) image taken on 20 October 2016,” the ESA statement reads. “This is the ‘after’ image in the pair of images taken to locate the Schiaparelli entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, which shows two new features appearing following the arrival of the module on 19 October.
“One of the features is bright and can be associated with the 12-m diameter parachute used in the second stage of Schiaparelli’s descent, after the initial heat shield entry,” it adds. “The parachute and the associated back shield were released from Schiaparelli prior to the final phase, during which its nine thrusters should have slowed it to a standstill just above the surface.
“The other new feature is a fuzzy dark patch roughly 15 x 40 metres in size and about 1 km north of the parachute. 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.”