The European Space Agency fears silence of the landing module in Mars


The European Space Agency (ESA) is still in analysis phase relatively to the descent of its landing module in Mars last afternoon of Wednesday. In spite of not having any sign of the functioning of the appliance, the scientists were refusing to declare end to the mission.

The mission was running well until the last 50 seconds of the decent. Leaving from there, the module Schiaparelli, stopped sending any type of sign of its functioning. Doing an analysis of the descent of the module, there are some problems revealed that can have conditioned the mission, the Schiaparelli was freed too early of the parachute and the rockets were disconnected ahead of the predicted time. Two mechanisms that were serving essentially to ease the speed of the module that weighs 577 kilograms and it entered the atmosphere of Mars 21 thousand kilometers per hour. In the end, without these mechanisms helping the braking of the module, the speed of the crash in the ground of Mars, could have put an end to the “life” of Schiaparelli.

The European Space Agency believes that only in a few days will be able to understand what happened concretely with the appliance. From the moment, the general-director of the ESA, Jan Woerner, keeps on pointing out the positive aspects of the mission, and said in a press conference in the last Thursday of morning: “The European probe Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) it is correctly positioned in the orbit of Mars and ready for science”. Jan Woerner guarantees that the second part of the mission ExoMars predicts in the year of 2020 to send a rover up to Mars. “The first stage of the mission ExoMars had two moments. The probe TGO is working and ready for the near phase. It received and transmitted the data of the descent of the landing module. For the second time, when 13 years of Mars Express were spent, the ESA managed with success to put a probe in the orbit of Mars. It is an important landmark.”, underlined by Andrea Accomazzo, director of the Division of Planetary Missions of the ESA.

About the module Schiaparelli, Andrea Accomazzo confirmed that although the ESA lost the sign only when it was lacking less than a minute in order that this one landed in Martian ground.

Also, advanced that, with the received data of the probe TGO, was already possible to come to the conclusion that the Schiaparelli “Entered in the atmosphere and opened the parachute in the right moment and the shield worked without faults.”. However, “In the point in which it was freed of the parachute, it was not held as we were waiting”.

The received signs show what the module will be able to have freed too early of the parachute and besides this, the life rockets that were serving to soften the landing will have been also disconnected ahead of the predicted time – must have fired during 30 seconds and not 3 or 4 as it happened.

Therefore, its assumed that the Schiaparelli has entered a free fall to about one or two kilometers from the Martian soil surface and has crashed violently when landed. At the moment, there are no certainties, and none of the officials of ESA wanted to confirm the possible and probable “death” of Schiaparelli. “It is certainly on the surface of Mars but we lost the signal,” said AFP Frédéric Béziat news agency, responsible for the project of the ExoMars mission in the center of Thales Alenia Space in Cannes, France, which adds, believing in the best outcome “We still have the hope that Schiaparelli is on the surface and alive”.

David Parker, director of space flight and robotic exploration in ESA also comments: “From an engineering point of view, it is for this that serves a test and we have important information to work with. We will study in detail all this information, but in this moment, we cannot speculate much”.

Responsible ESA wanted to make it clear that they believe that the ExoMars mission, which involves an investment of around EUR 1 300 million, is on track for success. The Schiaparelli lander is part of the first stage of ExoMars mission, a project between ESA and Russia, and will cost 230 million euros. In a second step, the ESA who wants to send a rover to Mars, and says that for this will need additional 300 million euros.

The probably failed mission of the Schiaparelli, could be useful to correct some technical problems and improve future performances, but will never be a good point to raise more funds for the mission or future missions. Faced with the difficulties of the mission, the general-director of ESA assured: “The ExoMars is ongoing. We have the basis for a European mission success to the search for life on Mars”.

So far, only NASA managed to get their probes and robots whole and functional to the Martian soil. This means that only seven devices were able to perform this task successfully. Many other landing missions to Mars have failed, both in the United States and Russia and also in Europe (the Beagle 2, a British university). It will be necessary to wait a few more days to learn definitive conclusions about the fate of Schiaparelli.