Saturday, 22 October 2016

Schiaparelli: Mars probe 'crash site identified'

MRO imageThe gouge in the ground likely made by Europe's Schiaparelli probe as it hit the surface of Mars on Wednesday has been imaged by an American satellite.
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has identified a large dark patch in the robot's targeted landing zone consistent with a high-velocity impact.
Schiaparelli is widely thought to have crashed and been destroyed.
Data transmitted from the probe before it lost contact indicated that its descent systems did not work properly.
Its parachute was jettisoned too early and its retrorockets, designed to slow the robot to a hover just above the surface, fired only for a few seconds. They should have operated for half a minute.
The MRO imagery is not quite definitive because the resolution is low - just six metres per pixel. Its context is persuasive, however.
The roughly 15m by 40m dark patch, which is probably dust and rock fragments thrown out from the impact, is sited some 5.5km west of Schiaparelli's expected touchdown point in the equatorial Meridiani Plain.
Tellingly, the feature is not present in previous MRO pictures of the location.
The clincher, though, may be the artefact 1km to the south of the patch. This white blob looks to be Schiaparelli's 15m-wide parachute which would have floated down behind the probe. Again, this was not present in earlier pictures.-read more

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