Update: ESA’s Schiaparelli destroyed by 300km/h impact

ESA has now confirmed that pictures from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter now show that Schiaparelli was destroyed on impact.

ESA:

Schiaparelli entered the martian atmosphere at 14:42 GMT on 19 October for its 6-minute descent to the surface, but contact was lost shortly before expected touchdown. …..  

……. Estimates are that Schiaparelli dropped from a height of between 2 and 4 kilometres, therefore impacting at a considerable speed, greater than 300 km/h. The relatively large size of the feature would then arise from disturbed surface material. It is also possible that the lander exploded on impact, as its thruster propellant tanks were likely still full. These preliminary interpretations will be refined following further analysis.

Reuters:

Images taken by a NASA Mars orbiter indicate that a missing European space probe was destroyed on impact after plummeting to the surface of the Red Planet from a height of 2-4 km (1.2 to 2.5 miles), the European Space Agency said on Friday.

The disc-shaped, 577-kg (1,272 lb) Schiaparelli probe, part of the Russian-European ExoMars program to search for evidence of life on Mars, descended on Wednesday to test technologies for a rover that scientists hope to send to the surface of the planet in 2020.

But contact with the vehicle was lost around 50 seconds before the expected landing time, leaving its fate uncertain until the NASA images were received.

“Schiaparelli reached the ground with a velocity that was much higher than it should have been, several hundred kilometers per hour, and was then unfortunately destroyed by the impact,” ExoMars Flight Director Michel Denis told Reuters TV.

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.

The U.S. space agency’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has been circling the planet for about 10 years, took low-resolution pictures that show a bright spot that ESA believes is the 12-metre parachute that Schiaparelli used to slow down. They also show a fuzzy dark patch, around 15 by 40 meters in size, about 1 km north of the parachute, which scientists interpret as having been created by the impact of the lander following a longer-than-planned free fall.

The ESA/NASA  plan to put a rover on Mars by 2021 (ExoMars Rover) is likely to be delayed considerably. NASA is also looking at another project to launch in 2020 and land a rover on Mars perhaps in 2022.

The Indian/Russian plan with Chandrayan 2 to put a lunar rover onto the moon is still on the cards for 2019.


 

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