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.

Get the full story on GeekWire.


Mars orbiter spots blackened remains of lander

Mars orbiter image
This image from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows the landing zone for the European Space Agency’s Schiaparelli probe on Mars. Analysts say the bright spot shows where the lander’s parachute fell, and the black spot shows where the lander hit. (Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / MSSS)

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.

Get the full story on GeekWire


What went wrong with Europe’s Mars lander?

Schiaparelli lander
An artist’s conception shows the Schiaparelli lander at the end of its parachute. (Credit: ESA)

The European Space Agency’s Schiaparelli lander apparently crashed after its parachute was ejected too early and its thrusters switched off too soon, according to data relayed back from its orbiting mothership.

“We have data coming back that allow us to fully understand the steps that did occur, and why the soft landing did not occur,” David Parker, ESA’s director of human spaceflight and robotic exploration, said today in a news release.

However, ESA emphasized that the analysis was still continuing, and the conclusions were only preliminary.

The good news is that the saucer-shaped lander’s mothership, the Trace Gas Orbiter, entered its intended orbit around Mars and is in good health.

Get the full story on GeekWire.