The European Space Agency is hailing its ExoMars mission a success, despite mystery over the fate of a lander, supposed to have touched down on the Red Planet.
Signals from the Schiaparelli probe stopped just before landing – though a parachute to slow its descent did deploy.
“Not only that has functionally worked from a timing point of view but also the heat shield that is protecting the capsule throughout this atmospheric phase at high velocity has worked flawlessly.
From the data we have collected, we can also see that the hardware has provided meaningful data.
From the data we have collected, we can also see that the hardware has provided meaningful data. Now it is a matter to analyse why, when we put together this data in the Martian environment, the spacecraft did not behave exactly as we expected,“Andrea Acommazzo, ESA Spacecraft Operations Manager.
While scientists try to work out why, their mission does have brighter news. The lander’s mothership known as the TGO – or Trace Gas Orbiter, is functioning and successfully in orbit around Mars – seeking signs of life.
“This has been very successful. All parameters we have recorded from the TGO were absolutely nominal, so it is the second time we have had a successful orbital insertion round Mars, 13 years after Mars Express,“Acommazzo added.
All being well, the second part of the Exomars mission, a collaboration with Russia’s Space Agency, will deliver a European rover to the Red Planet in 2020 – able to move across the planet’s surface and drill into the ground to collect and analyse samples.