Updates on ESA's ExoMars 2016 Mission: Schiaparelli Lander on Mars
Most of the world is expecting the landing of Schiaparelli Lander on Mars today Oct 19, but no signal from it has been received so far. The ESA's ExoMars 2016 mission was hoping to land the Schiaparelli Lander at 3:48pm UK time.
- The Schiaparelli lander has fallen silent during the last moments of its decent to Mars.
- It was being tracked from Earth by the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT), located in Pune, India.
- During its descent through the atmosphere, the GMRT saw several "jumps" in the signal that correspond to key events taking place correctly on the lander, such as the parachute being deployed.
- Flight controllers at ESA are refusing to "jump to conclusions", preferring to wait until they can analyze the data recorded by the Mars Express spacecraft, which was in detailed communication with Schiaparelli all the way to the surface.
- The Mars Express data is being returned to Earth now and the analysis is expected to take several hours.
- Meanwhile, the Trace Gas Orbiter has been firing its engine to reduce its speed from 12,000km/h to 5000km/h.
- The orbiter is now in eclipse behind Mars but will be back in contact with Earth at around 17:30 UK time.
- Once contact is re-established, the flight dynamics team can confirm whether TGO is now in orbit around Mars.
While waiting for more updates on ExoMars 2016 Mission let us throw back what happens before this big day for this mission.
As reported on Sky and Telescope, "Ground tracking stations began around the clock contact with the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter on October 9th. Schiaparelli separated from the orbiter on Sunday, October 16th, beginning a three-day journey to the Red Planet. The 6-minute descent to the surface should occur on Wednesday, October 19th, at 14:48 UT (4:48 p.m. CEST, 10:48 a.m. EDT). Mars is currently about 169 million km (1.128 astronomical units) from Earth, or just over 9 light-minutes away. Schiaparelli is aiming for a touchdown in a 100-by-15-km ellipse in the Meridiani Planum region of Mars".
Facts about Schiaparelli Lander
The Schiaparelli lander is named after the 19th-century Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli. He was born on 14 March 1835, 181 years to the very day before the launch of the mission that bear's his name.
During his career he observed Mars and named the major features that could be seen from Earth, calling them 'seas' and 'continents'. He also thought he saw 'channels' on Mars. These are now known to be optical illusions but they sparked a popular idea that they were 'canals' built by Martians in a desperate attempt to irrigate their dying world.