Images from Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show where the lost Schiaparelli crashed

Scientists are still trying to piece together exactly what happened to the lander
By | Published: October 21, 2016 | Last updated on May 18, 2023
NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS, Arizona State University; inserts: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) took photos that show markings on the surface of Mars where ESA’s ExoMars ExoMars Schiaparelli might have touched down.

Schiaparelli entered the atmosphere on October 19 for its descent, but lost contact just before it touched down. The team is currently analyzing data recorded by its mothership, the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO), to figure out what happened during the descent.

An image taken by the TGO was released today and shows the surface after the descent compared to an image from the same camera in May of this year.

Based on the images, it’s estimated that Schiaparelli dropped from a height of between two and four kilometers and impacted at a speed faster than 300 km/h, or 186.4 mph. It is also possible that Schiaparelli exploded on impact because of the propellant tanks still being full.

The pictures are still being looked into and next week will be looked at with HiRISE, the highest resolution camera on MRO.  After looking further, scientists are hoping to find the front heat shield, which was dropped at a higher altitude.

Scientists are confident they can figure out the chain of events because the module’s trajectory was observed from three different locations. They will also look into the recording of Schiaparelli descent signals for more answers.