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Mars orbiter sees lander’s crash in color

Schiaparelli crash site
Blackened streaks and bright bits of debris can be seen in this image of the crash zone for the European Space Agency’s Schiaparelli lander. (Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / University of Arizona)

High-resolution color images from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show the spot where the European Space Agency’s Schiaparelli lander crashed – in black and white and red all over.

The 8-foot-wide Schiaparelli spacecraft was deployed from ESA’s Trace Gas Orbiter and descended to the Red Planet’s surface on Oct. 19, but a glitch caused the descent to go awry in its final minutes.

Rather than making a controlled landing with the aid of its parachute and thrusters, Schiaparelli slammed into the surface at more than 180 mph, leaving a pattern of black streaks and a scattering of light-colored debris.

Those bits of debris show up particularly well in the latest pictures from MRO’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, or HiRISE.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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