ESA still waiting for signal from Mars lander Schiaparelli

ESA still waiting for signal from Mars lander Schiaparelli

Something unexpected occurred near the end of Schiaparelli lander’s descent under the parachute when its back shell was scheduled to jettison and the probe’s thrusters were programmed to ignite, the European Space Agency (ESA) said in a statement.

ESA’s Mars probe, the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO), successfully entered the Red Planet’s orbit on 19th of October after a crucial engine burn, but the fate of the Schiaparelli lander remains uncertain as project managers haven’t yet received a signal to confirm that it survived its touchdown.

The first sign of trouble from the lander came around the time when the probe was supposed to abandon its parachute and fire its thrusters to brake for a safe landing on Mars’ equatorial plains.

Andrea Accomazzo, the head of ESA’s solar & planetary missions division, said all the Entry, Descent and Landing Demonstrator Module behaved according to their expectation up to a certain point. But, he admitted that there might be a glitch.

Speaking on the topic, Accomazzo added, “It could mean that this parachute phase has been terminated too early, then we are far too high, or we have had a behavior during the parachute phase that led the lander to be far too low. From the data we have processed so far, we are not in a position to conclude on this specific point.”

The compact Schiaparelli lander was about the size of a small car, measuring less than 1.8 meters tall and roughly 1.65 meters wide. A successful landing would have made it the first European probe to do so. ESA’s next Mars mission is scheduled to take place in 2020.