Schiaparelli Mars lander lost in Space two minutes before touchdown

It was a sweet and bitter day for the ExoMars 2016. On one hand the mission controllers were overjoyed when TGO or the Trace Gas Orbiter which is a joint Russian/European project was established in a perfect elliptical orbit around the Red Planet, but on the other hand disaster struck when contact with the Entry, Descent, and Landing Demonstrator Module (EDM), Schiaparelli was lost soon after it entered the Mars atmosphere. Mission control in Darmstadt, Germany lost contact with Schiaparelli at 14:42 GMT and has not been reestablished.

The European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt is trying to establish contact with the module via ESA’s Mars Express, Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT) in Pune, India, NASA’s MRO or Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and MAVEN or Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution. The battery operated module is programmed to send telemetry at preset intervals.

The module was released from its mothership, TGO three days back and alternatively slipped into hibernation and them awakening to conserve power. The radio beacon sent a message and was received by GMRT 70 minutes before it was to enter the Martian CO2 rich atmosphere.

The communication was lost before the six-minute landing sequence was initiated. The module has been programmed to work autonomously since control from Earth is not possible because of the enormous distance which takes a radio message nine minutes to reach the Lander from earth.

The module must have struck the atmosphere ate hypersonic speed if it was operating as planned. The module is protected by a resin shield and after slowing down; the module will jettison its shield. It will deploy its parachute at 11 to 17 km. It 3600 feet it will fire its retro motors to slow its decent till 2 metres when it free falls and its crushable feature underside the module crumple to cushion the impact.

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Meenakshi Rawat

Having worked on Entertainment, Technology, and Business for four years, Meenakshi finds solace in technology, and more so in covering it. She loves to read novels, listen to music, and roam around places. You can reach Meenakshi at