On Wednesday, the European Space Agency (ESA) announced that the Schiaparelli spacecraft had been lost due to complications on landing.
The craft entered the atmosphere on October 19th, 14:42 GMT. A parachute release and 9 thrusters should have allowed for a controlled landing on the Red Planet; a first for the ESA and Roscosmos collaboration. Though the analysis of data from the descent isn’t complete, the agency suspects that the ejection of the parachute occurred earlier than planned causing the thrusters to cut out too soon; resulting in too high of a velocity for landing.
Recently, NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter may have taken images of the site where the rover crashed. The black spot represents the site where the craft should have originally landed and it appears that the probe’s rocket fuel pod exploded on impact. The loss of the rover is a disappointing development for the mission as it was aimed to be the first of a line of probes sent to eventually search for life below the planet’s surface; ExoMars 2020.
The sister ship, Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO), is still safely orbiting Mars collecting data from the descended rover. David Parker, ESA’s Director of Human Spaceflight and Robotic Exploration said “From the engineering standpoint, it’s what we want from a test, and we have extremely valuable data to work with. We will have an enquiry board to dig deeper into the data and we cannot speculate further at this time.” The probe was designed to test a new module for the entry, descent and landing on Mars and though it didn’t go as planned, scientists are still enthusiastic about what the continual analysis of the data will unveil.