The ESA lost contact with its Schiaparelli lander shortly before it was supposed to land on Mars on October 19th, and now the mystery of what happened to it has been resolved. Like we previously noted, there was a chance that the lander ditched its parachute too early and crashed onto the surface of Red Planet.
NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has identified new markings on the surface of the Red Planet that are believed to be related to Europe's Schiaparelli test lander. The new image shows a bright spot that may be Schiaparelli's parachute, and a larger dark spot interpreted as resulting from the impact of the lander itself following a much longer free fall than planned after thrusters switched off prematurely.
The location of the bright spot is within the planned landing area and the dark spot may be where the lander reached the surface and exposed darker ground.
The test lander is part of ESA's ExoMars 2016 mission, which placed the Trace Gas Orbiter into orbit around Mars on October 19. The orbiter will investigate Mars' atmosphere and provide relay communications capabilities for landers and rovers on the surface.
The next step of this two-part project is scheduled for 2020 when a surface rover will be placed on the surface of Mars.
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