A new image from the surface of Mars could be incredibly important to future missions to the Red Planet.
Scientists are learning more and more about what happened on that fateful day a few weeks ago when the European Space Agency’s Schiaparelli probe smashed into the surface of Mars, and now new color images are showing the failure in devastating detail. ESA has published images from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter owned by NASA that circles the Red Planet, and they clearly show the grim end of the spacecraft.
The crash site was spotted about a week ago in a black and white image, and NASA’s MRO orbiter was used to take a more detailed look at the spot. Scientists stitched those images together to provide a more complete view of the impact site, and it’s more than just for curiosity’s sake: this will help scientists in their investigation into what went wrong, and perhaps prevent a future 2020 mission from going wrong.
The photo appears to show that the heat shield burned as scientists expected, and the early evidence backs up the hypothesis craft by scientists. It will be used in the ongoing investigation into what went wrong in the fateful voyage to the surface of Mars.
“About 0.9 km to the south, the parachute and rear heatshield have also now been imaged in colour,” the ESA statement reads. “In the time that has elapsed since the last image was taken on 25 October, the outline of the parachute has changed. The most logical explanation is that it has been shifted in the wind, in this case slightly to the west. This phenomenon was also observed by MRO in images of the parachute used by NASA’s Curiosity rover.
“A stereo reconstruction of this image in the future will also help to confirm the orientation of the rear heatshield. The pattern of bright and dark patches suggest it is sitting such that we see the outside of the heatshield and the signature of the way in which the external layer of insulation has burned away in some parts and not others – as expected.
“Finally, the front heatshield has been imaged again in black and white – its location falls outside of the colour region imaged by MRO – and shows no changes. Because of the different viewing geometry between the two image sets, this confirms that the bright spots are not specular reflections, and must therefore be related to the intrinsic brightness of the object. That is, it is most likely the bright multilayer thermal insulation that covers the inside of the front heatshield, as suggested last week.”