The European Space Agency (ESA) has come up with an explanation on what might have caused the Mars lander, called the Schiaparelli lander which was part of the joint alien life-hunting between the ESA and Russia — to crash on the Red Planet this October.
They have blamed a glitch in its navigation system for the failure of the multi-million lander. While the details are complicated, in simple terms, the navigation computer was erroneous in calculations of the altitude during the landing sequence, resulting in a premature opening of the lander’s parachute and backshell along with the application of its “braking thrusters.”
The navigation system miscalculated and assumed that the lander was on the ground while it was still about 3.7 kilometres (2.3 miles) above the Mars surface. So while everyone was hoping that the lander would be another milestone in the human quest towards achieving access to the red planet, unfortunately, it resulted in creating just another crater.
David Parker, ESA’s director of human spaceflight and robotic exploration, said in a statement,
“This is still a very preliminary conclusion of our technical investigations. 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.”
The Schiaparelli was launched to gather information and test the premise of sending larger payloads to Mars in the future, and while the mission did not go exactly as planned, the engineers working on it still believe they have collected valuable data from spacecraft’s descent.
And using this information, The ESA and Russia are now looking to launch another ExoMars mission in a bid to find signs of life on the Red Planet four years from now.
“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.”
In this mission, Schiaparelli’s companion spacecraft, the Trace Gas Orbiter, did manage to reach successfully. It is now orbiting around Mars and gathering valuable data, hunting for some trace of current or past life on Mars either in the form of methane or another gas in the atmosphere or surface.