Schiaparelli: European Space Agency gives update on Mars crash investigation
The European Space Agency has released details from its preliminary report into the Schiaparelli crash on Mars. The investigation confirms the probe misinterpreted sensor data, which made it think it was below ground level, when in reality the module was still at an altitude of around 3.7km.
This prompted Schiaparelli to jettison its parachute too early and to fire its landing rockets for just three seconds. These actions put the probe into a freefall that led to its destruction. A crater and scattered hardware were later imaged by an American satellite.
"This is still a very preliminary conclusion of our technical investigations," said David Parker, Esa’s director of human spaceflight and robotic exploration.
"The full picture will be provided in early 2017 by the future report of an external independent inquiry board, which is now being set up, as requested by Esa’s director general, under the chairmanship of Esa's inspector general.
"But we will have learned much from Schiaparelli that will directly contribute to the second ExoMars mission being developed with our international partners for launch in 2020."
Schiaparelli was part of Esa's ExoMars programme - a joint venture with the Russians - which is endeavouring to search for evidence of past or present life on the Red Planet.
The 600kg robot was conceived as a technology demonstrator - a project to give Europe the learning experience and the confidence to go ahead with the landing on Mars in 2021 of an ambitious six-wheeled rover.
This future vehicle will use some of the same technology as Schiaparelli, including its doppler radar to sense the speed and distance to the surface on descent, and its guidance, navigation and control (GNC) algorithms.