AI News, Further clues to fate of Mars lander, seen from orbit

Further clues to fate of Mars lander, seen from orbit

An Oct. 25 observation using the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows three impact locations within about 0.9 mile (1.5 kilometers) of each other.

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 0.8 mile (1.4 kilometers) eastward, an object with several bright spots surrounded by darkened ground is likely the heat shield.

About 0.8 mile (1.4 kilometers) 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.

Signs of Schiaparelli Test Lander Seen From Orbit

This comparison of before-and-after images shows two spots that likely appeared in connection with the Oct. 19, 2016, Mars arrival of the European Space Agency's Schiaparelli test lander.

The spot is elliptical, about 50 by 130 feet (15 by 40 meters) in size, and is probably too large to have been made by the impact of the heat shield.

The main image covers an area about 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) wide, at about 2 degrees south latitude, 354 degrees east longitude, in the Meridiani Planum region of Mars.

Schiaparelli Impact Site on Mars, in Color

On Nov. 1, 2016, the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter observed the impact site of Europe's Schiaparelli test lander, gaining the first color view of the site since the lander's Oct. 19, 2016, arrival.

These cutouts from the observation cover three locations where parts of the spacecraft reached the ground: the lander module itself in the upper portion, the parachute and back shell at lower left, and the heat shield at lower right.

ESA reports that the heat shield separated as planned, the parachute deployed as planned but was released (with back shell) prematurely, and the lander hit the ground at a velocity of more than 180 miles per hour (more than 300 kilometers per hour).

Where the lander module struck the ground, dark radial patterns that extend from a dark spot are interpreted as 'ejecta,' or material thrown outward from the impact, which may have excavated a shallow crater.

This Is the Best View Yet of Europe's Mars Lander Crash Site

Europe's ExoMars lander gouged out a crater 1.6 feet (0.5 meters) deep and nearly 8 feet (2.4 m) wide when it crashed into the Red Planet's surface last week, a new photo by a NASA Mars orbiter reveals.

The lander, known as Schiaparelli, apparently deployed its parachute prematurely and didn't fire its thrusters nearly long enough to pull off a soft landing as planned on Oct. 19, European Space Agency (ESA) officials have said.

The fuzzy dark smudges around the central crater are difficult to interpret at the moment, ESA officials said: These markings are asymmetrical, which suggests that the impactor was traveling at a low angle to the ground, but Schiaparelli should have been descending pretty much perpendicular to the surface when it hit.

"It is possible the hydrazine propellant tanks in the module exploded preferentially in one direction upon impact, throwing debris from the planet’s surface in the direction of the blast, but more analysis is needed to explore this idea further,"

About 0.9 miles (1.4 kilometers) south of this crater is a bright feature above a smaller gray disk, which are almost certainly Schiaparelli's 39-foot-wide (12 m) parachute and its attached rear heat shield, respectively, ESA officials said.

TGO should reach that orbit by March 2018, at which point the spacecraft will begin hunting for buried water ice and sniffing the Martian atmosphere for methane and other gases that could be signs of life.

Camera on Mars Orbiter Shows Signs of Latest Mars Lander

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, which arrived at Mars on Oct. 19.

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.

It was taken by the Context Camera (CTX) on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and is available online, as a before-and-after comparison with an image from May 2016, at: http://mars.nasa.gov/multimedia/images/?ImageID=8131 The location information gained from acquiring the CTX image will be used for imaging the site with the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera.

The location of the bright spot interpreted as the parachute is 353.79 degrees east longitude, 2.07 degrees south latitude, closely matching ESA's calculation for the landing location based on landing-day data.

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