The Schiaparelli lander's instruments experienced a computer glitch. Image Credit: ESA
Scientists have finally determined exactly what caused the Schiaparelli probe to crash-land on Mars.
The lander, which separated from the Trace Gas Orbiter as it arrived at Mars back in October, was totally obliterated when it slammed in to the planet's surface at speeds of up to 540 km/h.
Initially there was much confusion over exactly what had gone wrong, but now, following a lengthy investigation by the European Space Agency, the culprit has finally been found.
During its descent, a computer responsible for measuring the probe's rotation speed reached a maximum value which in turn caused the other instruments to glitch out.
Believing itself to be much lower than it actually was, the lander then deployed its parachute and braking thrusters far too early, resulting in it hitting the ground at high speed.
"[T]he erroneous information generated an estimated altitude that was negative," ESA wrote. "That is, below ground level. This in turn successively triggered a premature release of the parachute and the back shell, a brief firing of the braking thrusters and finally activation of the on-ground systems as if Schiaparelli had already landed."
"In reality, the vehicle was still at an altitude of around 3.7 kilometers."
Despite the setback however, the team behind the mission are thankful that the problem occurred now rather than during the next ExoMars mission which will be landing a rover on Mars in 2021.
With any luck things will go a lot more smoothly next time around.
Source: News.com.au | Comments (7)
Mars, Schiaparelli, ExoMars