ESA’s ExoMars mission orbiter successfully circling Mars, but contact with lander was lost
This dense post represents what a wild,
intricate, and global effort space technology is.
On Oct. 19, 2016, European Space Agency and Russian space agency’s (Roscosmos) two spacecraft of the ExoMars programme reached the red planet.
One of the two spacecraft, the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) “successfully performed the long 139-minute burn required to be captured by Mars and entered an elliptical orbit” as planned. The lander, named Schiaparelli, entered the martian atmosphere, but contact was lost before expected touchdown.
From ESA: “Schiaparelli was programmed to autonomously perform an automated landing sequence, with parachute deployment and front heat shield release between 11 and 7 km, followed by a retrorocket braking starting at 1100 m from the ground, and a final fall from a height of 2 m protected by a crushable structure.”
Contact was established before the atmospheric entry though the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT), the world’s largest interferometric array, located near Pune, India, but “lost some time prior to landing”.
With ESA’s Trace Gas Orbiter, there are now six operational spacecraft orbiting Mars. NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is one of them, and its low-resolution camera took pictures (see above) of
Schiaparelli’s expected touchdown site on 20 October.
Compared to the image taken of the landing site in spring, there have appeared two new features, which ESA associates with the lander itself and its parachute.