NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has caught sight of the blackened spot where a European lander apparently hit the Martian surface, providing the first visual evidence that the Schiaparelli probe did indeed bite the dust.
Before-and-after pictures from the orbiter’s low-resolution Context Camera also showed the appearance of a brand-new bright spot in the expected landing zone in Mars’ Meridiani Planum region. That bright spot is thought to be Schiaparelli’s 40-foot-wide parachute, which was apparently ejected earlier than intended.
The “before” image was taken in May, and the “after” image was taken on Oct. 20, a day after the lander’s descent.
The pictures will help guide follow-up observations to be made next week using MRO’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, or HiRISE. The European Space Agency’s ExoMars team says even the low-resolution imagery is consistent with a high-speed impact that would have destroyed the lander.