LOOK: First Colored Photograph of ESA's ExoMars Lander That Exploded on Impact Released
The fate of the European Space Agency's (ESA) ExoMars lander Schiaparelli was finally confirmed after a colored photograph of the impact site was released. It showed that the lander exploded upon impact.
ESA's Schiaparelli lander is part of the agency's ExoMars mission. The lander is paired with an orbiter that was successfully launched to its place. But the same fate cannot be said about the lander who failed its landing attempt to Mars last Oct. 19.
From day one, the ExoMars mission was going smoothly; both the lander and the orbiter detached from the mothership in a smooth manner. The lander then started its 3-days descent to Mars. After which, it had attempted a landing maneuver that requires the lander to power up its thrusters to slow down its descent. However, minutes before its impact, the control base lost contact with the lander.
It wasn't clear yet what actually caused the missed landing but one theory is that the thrusters were fired at the wrong time citing calculation glitch. At first, the lander was filed 'lost' but NASA revealed a small spot at the supposed landing site suggesting that the spacecraft crashed.
"It is possible that the lander exploded on impact, as its thruster propellant tanks were likely still full," and ESA official said.
A few weeks after, a colored photograph of the crash site was released. The image was taken by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) last Nov. 1. It showed a blacked crater surrounded by reflective materials presumed to be parts of the doomed Schiaparelli ESA lander. Aside from the crater, there was an observed line on the photo suggesting that some of the remained rocket propellant and other materials might have leaked after the explosion.
The image can easily be recognized as it is alien to the Martian surface. Plus the color is obviously different from the Martian regolith. Despite the ill fate of ESA's Schiaparelli lander, ESA says that the ExoMars mission can still be construed a success since the most important orbiter was launched into space without a glitch. The orbiter will perform more science compare to the doomed lander, according to ESA.