Fate of European space lander to Mars unknown

20 Oct 2016 | By Supriya Kaur

A European Space lander destined for Mars has reached the red planet according to the European Space Agency (ESA).

The space lander's six-minute descent onto Mars was relayed by other European and US spacecraft that were already in the orbit.

However the transmission stopped abruptly leaving those at ESA wondering about the space lander's fate.

According to ESA, these were clearly "not good signs".

In context: Attempt to explore life on Mars receives setback

WhatThe ExoMars Mission

ExoMars, short for 'Exobiology on Mars', is a joint-project between the Russian and European space agencies.

The ExoMars Mission is a two-part project: the first part comprises of landing the stationary lander, Schiaparelli as well as its mothership, the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO).

The second part is expected to follow in 2020.

The mission's purpose is to detect if life ever existed on Mars.

Giovanni Schiaparelli

The ExoMars Mission's space lander has been named after Giovanni Schiaparelli. Schiaparelli was an Italian astronomer who way back in the late-eighteenth century had begun to extensively map planet Mars's topography. The name of the space lander was suggested by a group of Italian scientists.
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DetailsSpace Lander Schiaparelli

Schiaparelli's mothership, Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO), on which the spaced lander travelled, carries an atmospheric probe which will study trace gases such as methane around the planet.

The Schiaparelli will be testing technologies for a more advanced rover due to follow in 2020.

This is only the second time a European attempt has been made to land a craft on the red planet.

First European attempt was a bust

The first European attempt to land a craft on Mars was made in 2003. 'Beagle 2' was ejected from Mars Express spacecraft but never made contact as it failed to deploy its solar panels. The failed attempt had been dubbed "a heroic failure".

20 Oct 2016Fate of European space lander to Mars unknown

DetailsWhat transpired during Schiaparelli's landing?

Radio signals captured by 'Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope', indicate the lander managed to deploy its parachute and its heat shield.

Andrea Acoomazzo, ESA Spacecraft Operations Manager, said things appeared to have gone awry in the last 30 seconds of the descent.

Data suggested that the lander's parachute jettisoned too early and it was possible that the craft hurtled towards the surface at a higher-speed.

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Current status of Schiaparelli

The ESA has yet to analyze the data and determine if Schiaparelli survived the landing. However it is too soon to say if this could impact the second part of the ExoMars mission which intends to deliver a more advanced rover on the red planet.