Satellite images of Mars taken by the NASA orbiter demonstrate a collision caused by the free fall of the European landing module Schiaparelli.
NASA satellite images from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) have broken hopes that the Schiparelli European descent vehicle peacefully sank onto the Martian surface.
Before planting Schiaparelli, pictures capture a white spot. Then, it is believed that the probe released the parachute, and now a large dark area probably represents an area of disaster. These images are shown on Friday's show.
Schiaparelli was apparently moving at a speed of more than 186 miles per hour when he crashed into the ground. This was reported by the European Space Agency (ESA). It is also likely that the probe exploded due to the impact, as its fuel tank was still full.
It was assumed that the apparatus would use fuel for roasting a low-thrust engine in order to slow down its speed as it approaches the Martian surface on Wednesday morning. Instead, radio signals show that Schiaparelli dropped its parachute ahead of time, and then lit its engines in just three or four seconds, which is much less than scientists expected. Computer simulation of the descent, published on the ESA website, shows that the parachute is released overboard 31 seconds before landing. In fact, it turned out that the descent vehicle was ahead of the event 20 seconds earlier.
Johann-Dietrich Werner, director of the European Space Agency, in a conversation with journalists on Thursday tried to present an unsuccessful landing in a positive light. As he stated, Schiaparelli was always perceived as a test and the key part of the mission was to take him to the main spacecraft - Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO), to orbit around Mars.
In addition to searching for atmospheric chemicals that may indicate the presence of life, TGO will serve as a radio broadcast for subsequent rovers who will directly search for past life or search for modern living organisms on Mars. Rover ExoMars plan to launch in 2020.
Werner added that the goal of Schiaparelli was to transmit data on entry, descent and landing. It does not matter whether it was successful or not.
Despite the unsuccessful landing, Werner considers the Schiaparelli mission to be 80% successful, as the data recorded 80% of the descent.
“We will receive information ... on the implementation of such elements as a thermal shield, parachute, radar, thrusters and others,” Werner wrote on the ESA website on Friday. “This information can later be used to improve the design of the ExoMars mission in 2020, since the integrity of the vehicle during descent will be of real scientific importance.” “Overall, this is a very positive result,” he said.
To understand what happened to the device Schiappareli will take several days, if not weeks. But Werner said that this should not affect the ESA’s commitment to build and launch the ExoMars rover.
Originally, ESA planned to create a landing system for the rover, repeating the Schiapareli technique. But Russia, which joined the project after the refusal of the United States, has a different approach. This was announced by the ESA scientist Olivier Vitassé at the conference of the American Astronomical Society in Pasadena, California this week.
“We will not reuse all Schiaparelli technology,” he said.
The higher resolution images of the crash site, which are expected from NASA's MRO next week, will provide important information to improve the chances of a new rover for a good landing.