NASA instrumentation has located the final resting place of the European Space Agency (ESA)’s Schiaparelli probe. The spacecraft crashed into Mars’ surface on October 19 last, after a suspected malfunction on its final approach. Contact with the probe was lost about one minute from the Martian ground.
An ESA spokesperson said that they have not yet discerned the nature of the malfunction, but believe that a software glitch was the root cause of the failure. Telemetry data shows that the parachute designed to slow down the craft’s descent deployed too early, and that the reverse thrusters cut off too soon. According to the spokesperson, data proves that the thrusters did operate briefly, but not long enough to enable a safe landing, as the computer may have interpreted that the craft was closer to the ground than it really was. ESA Mission Control believes that the probe hit the Martian surface at terminal velocity, shattering on impact.
The crash site is located about 33mi away from where NASA Mars rover Opportunity was operating at the time.
Schiaparelli’s main mission was to test new technology for future landings on Mars.