Scientists have made a major discovery regarding the Schiaparelli probe that smashed into the Red Planet earlier this year.
Scientists may have just solved a major mystery on the surface of Mars, where the Schiaparelli spacecraft now resides as nothing more than a black crater. The European Space Agency was stunned to find that a data glitch may have caused the spacecraft to meet its end on the surface of the Red Planet, and the discovery could have major ramifications for critical future space missions.
The preliminary investigation has found that the onboard computer used to measure the rotation of the lander thought it was near the surface when in reality it was more than 2 miles above Mars. As a result, it went through its landing procedures way too early, and fell like a rock to Mars, smashing into the surface at a speed of 335 miles per hour.
The incorrect reading caused the premature release of the parachute, as well as the backshell, and then the thruster fired briefly, and the on-ground systems activated as if the landing was complete, when in fact Schiaparelli was still far above the surface, according to a European Space Agency statement.
“This is still a very preliminary conclusion of our technical investigations,” says 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.”
“ExoMars is extremely important for European science and exploration,” says Roberto Battiston, President of Italy’s ASI space agency. “Together with all the participating states in the programme, we will work towards the successful completion of the second ExoMars mission.
“ESA and ASI’s strong partnership will continue to be instrumental in this valuable and exciting European mission.”