NASA Just Found the Crash Site of the Lost ExoMars Lander

Friday, 21 October 2016 - 5:50PM
Space
ESA
Friday, 21 October 2016 - 5:50PM
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Bye, Schiaparelli. The lost ESA lander from the ExoMars mission has just been found - or at least its crash site was. Although we don't know for certain what happened to it yet, in all likelihood it didn't survive. 

Earlier this week, the Schiaparelli lander entered Mars' atmosphere, but then lost contact shortly before it landed, which isn't a good sign. The mothership, the Trace Gas Orbiter, collected data from the landing that is still being analyzed, but in the meantime, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter seems to have found the lander's crash site. The NASA orbiter found two new features on Mars near the touchdown site, one of which appears to be the lander's parachute, and the other appears to be a dark patch from the impact of the lander.

As of now, ESA estimates that the lander dropped from a height of 2-4 km, which would have disturbed the surface material to create the large objects seen in the photographs. So at the very least, the lander is likely extremely damaged, but ESA stated that it might have been destroyed completely:

Opening quote
"It is also possible that the lander exploded on impact, as its thruster propellant tanks were likely still full. These preliminary interpretations will be refined following further analysis."
Closing quote

Luckily, the mothership TGO still achieved orbit, and is set to begin its science mission in March 2018, after achieving a closer and more circular orbit. The TGO will try to decipher the origins of methane in Mars' atmosphere, and will also serve as a communications relay for the ExoMars 2020 rover and NASA's Mars 2020 rover.
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