Scientists shocked by discovery on Mars

Scientists shocked by discovery on Mars

The crash landing of the Schiaparelli probe on the surface of Mars last month touched off an intense investigation that has come to a conclusion.

Scientists think they have solved the mystery behind the crash landing of the Schiaparelli probe on Mars last month, and they’re blaming a computer glitch for the botched descent. A preliminary investigation has reportedly determiend that the onboard computer that measures the rotation of the lander incorrectly thought it was much closer to the surface than it was, according to a statement from the European Space Agency.

Because of the glitch, the lander ended up hurtling into the Red Planet’s surface at a blistering speed of 335 miles per hour. The data error caused a premature release of the parachute and the backshell, and a firing of the thrusters, and even the activiation of the on-ground systems as the computer had thought that Schiaparelli had landed.

The probe was deployed by the Trace Gas Orbiter, which continues to orbit Mars after reaching the planet in October. Schiaparelli was considered a precursor to a 2020 Mars rover mission, so the crash will certainly complicate matters for that mission.

“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.”

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