Unresponsive Schiaparelli could spell another failed Mars landing

2016-10-20 15:24
Italian Space Agency President Roberto Battiston talks to journalists while a rendering of the Schiaparelli Space Module and of the planet Mars is displayed on a movie screen. (Gregorio Borgia, AP)

Italian Space Agency President Roberto Battiston talks to journalists while a rendering of the Schiaparelli Space Module and of the planet Mars is displayed on a movie screen. (Gregorio Borgia, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Paris – Mission controllers were in the dark on Thursday about the fate of a tiny European craft despatched to Mars as a trial run for a rover to follow in a quest for life on the Red Planet.

The paddling pool-sized "Schiaparelli" lander was scheduled to touch down at 14:48 GMT on Wednesday after a scorching, supersonic dash through Mars' thin atmosphere to conclude a 496-million kilometre journey from Earth.

But signal was lost before touchdown – evoking the ghost of Europe's first, failed, bid to land on Mars 13 years ago.

"We are not in a position yet to determine the dynamic condition at which the lander touched the ground," European Space Agency (ESA) head of solar and planetary missions, Andrea Accomazzo, told a webcast press briefing at mission control in Darmstadt, Germany.

Further analysis was needed of about 600MB of data Schiaparelli sent home before falling quiet, to "know whether it survived structurally or not", he said.

This would be Europe's second failed Mars landing in a row, joining a string of other unsuccessful attempts by global powers to explore our planetary neighbour's hostile surface.

Seven-year journey

The British-built Beagle 2 robot lab disappeared without trace after separating from its mothership, Mars Express, in 2003. Its remains were finally spotted in a NASA photograph last year.

Schiaparelli had travelled for seven years onboard the joint European-Russian Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) to come within a million kilometres from Mars on Sunday, when it set off on its own mission to reach the surface.

The pair comprised phase one of the ExoMars mission through which Europe and Russia seek to join the United States in probing the alien Martian surface.

The TGO was successfully placed in Mars orbit on Wednesday, to cheers and applause from ground controllers about 170 million kilometres away.

Its task, starting in 2018, will be to sniff atmospheric gases potentially excreted by living organisms – however small or primitive.

Schiaparelli's landing, in turn, was designed to inform technology for the bigger and more expensive rover scheduled for launch in 2020 – the second phase and high point of ExoMars.

The six-wheel rover will be equipped with a drill to look for clues of life, past or present, up to a depth of two metres.

Read more on:    esa  |  france  |  space exploration

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Tsunami warnings in Pacific

2016-12-08 21:51

Inside News24

 
/Sport

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.