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Schiaparelli Mars Lander: ESA Figures Out What Went Wrong

Dec 01, 2016 07:48 AM EST

The European Space Agency (ESA) has finally figured out what had caused the Schiaparelli Mars lander to crash on the red planet's surface. Before the landers' unlikely demise, scientists involved in the mission were able to recover data from the lander.

According to what the mission scientists have found, there is much more to the sequence of the events following the crash of Schiaparelli Mars lander. Reports state that the lander successfully entered Mars' atmosphere and had braked as expected. Even the parachute and the landers' heatshield released at 12 kilometers and 7.8 kilometers respectively.

The radar altimeter was still working fine and the feedback from it still managed to be integrated into the landers' other systems. Also, the Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU), the device that measures the vehicle's rate of rotation was working, but it wasn't after the parachute had deployed that the maximum inertia or saturation went on longer than what was expected.

Due to the "wacky output" of the IMU, the landers' navigation system interpreted that the "estimated altitude was at a negative." Thus, the system fired the braking thrusters in a hurry causing the lander to freefall at two miles off the ground.

"This is still a very preliminary conclusion of our technical investigations," stated David Parker, the Director of Human Spaceflight and Robotic Exploration of the ESA, adding, "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."

News of Schiaparelli's crash landing was reported last month ago. The lander was a vital piece in the ExoMars mission.

"Schiaparelli's landing was anything but "soft" - the spacecraft failed to fire its descent-slowing thrusters as long as intended, and full fuel tanks would have exploded upon impact," reported the Christian Science Monitor.

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