Mars lander goes missing
It travelled half a billion kilometres across the Solar System, and survived a scorching descent through Mars’s atmosphere – only to get lost one minute before it was due to land on the Red Planet. That was the sad fate of the European Space Agency’s Schiaparelli lander this week, said The Guardian: according to the ESA, the half-ton craft had detached from its mother ship, the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, and deployed its parachute successfully, 1km above Mars’s surface, when its signal went dead. It is thought to have jettisoned its parachute too early, and crash landed.
However, officials were quick to say that the mission was still, by and large, a success. Before going missing, the lander had captured large quantities of data; and its mother ship has now commenced its elliptical orbit of Mars, which, over the next few years, is expected to gather crucial information about the gases in the planet’s atmosphere. Moreover, the loss of the lander has not jeopardised the second phase of the ExoMars project – a six-wheeled rover due to launch in 2020. It will be equipped with a two-metre drill which will burrow into the soil in search of alien organisms.
An artist’s impression of the ExoMars orbiter