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Fate of ExoMars lander hangs in the balance

Posted on Wednesday, 19 October, 2016 | Comment icon 58 comments

The Schiaparelli lander is now on the surface of Mars. Image Credit: ESA
The ExoMars mission's lander Schiaparelli has reached Mars but it is unclear whether or not it survived.
Earlier on today, scientists at ESA waited with baited breath as the Schiaparelli lander, having separated from the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, headed down through the planet's atmosphere.

As the minutes ticked by however it became increasingly evident that something was amiss.

While the accompanying orbiter appears to have successfully entered in to orbit around Mars, the Schiaparelli lander remains unaccounted for. The signal, which should have been sent to confirm that the probe had touched down safely on the surface, hasn't been received.

On the plus side, data sent back by the probe during its descent indicated that the parachutes had deployed on its way down so there is still a good chance that it managed to make it in one piece.

It could be that the signal from the probe on the surface simply hasn't been picked up yet.

Update: Data from NASA's Mars Express orbiter has revealed that the Schiaparelli lander's signal stopped just before it landed. ESA's Paulo Ferri has stated that this is "not a good sign."

As things stand, it does not appear as though the lander survived its descent.

Source: New York Times | Comments (58)

Tags: Schiaparelli, ExoMars

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #49 Posted by Merc14 on 27 October, 2016, 21:44
It was moving very fast when it hit. I wonder if the parachute ripped off or was released early?
Comment icon #50 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 27 October, 2016, 22:07
It was released early.
Comment icon #51 Posted by toast on 27 October, 2016, 22:49
Today, Rolf Densing/ ESA Head of Missions, stated in the new magazine DER SPIEGEL that the failure was caused by a software communication problem. The altimeter of Schiaparelli provided data as planned but this data wasnt processed by Schiaparelli`s navigation system because it was switched off as it "was in the opinion" that the touchdown has been executed already. As a result, the retrorockets fired for 3 seconds ony, which was the minimum possible operation time, instead of 60 seconds. Further investigations about the software failure are in process, the final report is expected to be ready... [More]
Comment icon #52 Posted by Merc14 on 27 October, 2016, 23:03
Some code monkey is in a heap of trouble.
Comment icon #53 Posted by stevewinn on 28 October, 2016, 19:02
Another crash and burn on Mars. What is the success rate for intact landings on Mars?
Comment icon #54 Posted by Derek Willis on 28 October, 2016, 19:13
Didn't someone earlier post that they hoped it wasn't another case of imperial unitsbeing mixed up with metric units?It is unbelievable how, when NASA were able to successfully land the two Viking probes forty years ago, this sort of problem could occur now.
Comment icon #55 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 28 October, 2016, 19:57
It's not unbelievable at all. The Vikings were relatively unsophisticated. Had they landed on a rock theywould have been destroyed. That was one of thereasons NASA sent two, it gave them a better chance of success. As it happens NASA got lucky and they both survived. Modern landers are much more sophisticated. They are increasingly able to make autonomous decisions, rather than relying on a simple timer based system toland, meaning that space agencies can actually send them to places of interest rather than picking flat, relatively uninteresting landing spots. The downside is that with inc... [More]
Comment icon #56 Posted by toast on 28 October, 2016, 21:13
We will know in 2 weeks.
Comment icon #57 Posted by Derek Willis on 28 October, 2016, 22:36
So what did all that sophistication result in? A lander that failed. If a lander is given more sophistication than the highly successful Viking landers, it is only of value if itactually manages to land. Edit: And by the way, Waspie, as usual you like to miss out facts to make your point. The Viking landers did not only have "timers" - they had a relatively sophisticated terminal descent velocity landing radar system to determine how long the retro rockets should burn for. And also, as usual, you tend not to reply to posts that point out you... [More]
Comment icon #58 Posted by Derek Willis on 28 October, 2016, 22:39
I am not saying there was a mix up with imperial and metric units. The poster made the comment to suggest that human error was the reason the Schiaparelli failed - i.e. something went wrong with the programming.

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