NASA has provided new details of the scene near the Martian equator where Europe's Schiaparelli test lander hit the surface last week.
The new images show three impact locations within about 1.5 kilometers (0.9 miles) from each other.
A dark, roughly circular feature is interpreted as where the lander itself struck. A pattern of rays extending from the circle suggests that a shallow crater was excavated by the impact, as expected given the premature engine shutdown. About 1.4 kilometers (0.8 miles) eastward, an object with several bright spots surrounded by darkened ground is likely the heat shield. About 0.9 kilometers (0.6 miles) south of the lander impact site, two features side-by-side are interpreted as the spacecraft's parachute and the back shell to which the parachute was attached. Additional images to be taken from different angles are planned and will aid interpretation of these early results.
The ESA lost contact with its Schiaparelli lander shortly before it was supposed to land on Mars on October 19th. Last week, NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter identified markings on the surface of the Red Planet that are related to Europe's Schiaparelli test lander.
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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