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ESA Revealed 1-Second Error Lead to Mars Schiaparelli Lander Crash

Nov 25, 2016 06:31 AM EST
ExoMars 2016 Launch
A glitch that lasted for about one second made Schiaparelli plunge to its death, ESA revealed.
(Photo : David Ducros/ESA via Getty Images)

A glitch that lasted for about one second made Schiaparelli plunge to its death, ESA revealed.

According to Space News, an unexplained saturation of its inertial measurement unit (IMU) forced a premature release of its parachute. Although the saturation lasted for only a second, it was enough to confuse the IMU system, leading to the mission's end.

ESA added that everything from atmospheric entry to the release of vehicle's heatshield went smoothly as planned except for the unexplained saturation of the IMU.

The saturation of the IMU made Schiaparelli function as if it has already landed despite the fact that it was still at an altitude of around 3.7 kilometers. There was a brief firing of the braking thrusters and finally activation of the on-ground systems.

"This is still a very preliminary conclusion of our technical investigations," says David Parker, ESA's Director of Human Spaceflight and Robotic Exploration in a press release. "The full picture will be provided in early 2017 by the future report of an external independent inquiry board, which is now being set up, as requested by ESA's Director General, under the chairmanship of ESA's Inspector General.

"But we will have learned much from Schiaparelli that will directly contribute to the second ExoMars mission being developed with our international partners for launch in 2020."

Schiaparelli probe crashed on the red planet while attempting a landing on October 19. It could have been the first European spacecraft to land on the surface of Mars, if not for the error.

ESA governments are scheduled to discuss the funding of the second ExoMars mission during a meeting in Lucerne, Switzerland on December 1 and 2, RT reported.

"ExoMars is extremely important for European science and exploration," says Roberto Battiston, President of Italy's ASI space agency. "Together with all the participating states in the programme, we will work towards the successful completion of the second ExoMars mission.

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