Mars probe Schiaparelli may have exploded just before landing, European Space Agency says

A NASA orbiter captured images of the ExoMars module on Wednesday, but radio silence has made ESA scientists fear for the worst

Feliks Garcia
New York
Friday 21 October 2016 18:32
Watch robot probe Schiaparelli's planned Mars landing

The European Space Agency says its experimental Mars probe, Schiaparelli, may have exploded moments before it was set to land on the Red Planet.

ESA's report comes after more than 50 seconds of radio silence from the craft just ahead of the planned landing.

Images of the Schiaparelli landing site captured by the NASA orbiter

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured what scientists believe to be the ExoMars module. ESA said that Schiaparelli entered the Martian atmosphere at approximately 14.42 GMT on Wednesday. But the images showed a black spot, which led officials to believe that the module may have entered the planet at a much higher rate of speed than anticipated.

According to ESA, Schiaparelli lost radio contact during the final 50 seconds of its descent through the notably intense Martian atmosphere.

It likely plummeted 2 to 4 kilometres on surface of Mars, impacting the terrain at speeds higher than 186 miles per hour (300 km/h).

The NASA pictures, ESA added, appear to indicated that the craft's thrusters faild, preventing it from slowing upon final descent.

Given the module was equipped with tanks filled with rocket fuel, Schiaparelli likely exploded on impact.

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