Mars lan­der goes miss­ing

The Week Middle East - - News -

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

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