ESA landed robot to Mars

ESA robotic exploration of Mars has landed.  There was a tense wait as ESA determines whether Schiaparelli probe has landed safely as no signal from it has been received so far- and just few minutes ago ESA’s mission control centre as spacecraft operators watched for the signal to return, there is now back-slapping, cheers and applause. The main science mission is ‘go!’. One of the core scientific goals of this Mars mission is the search for evidence of life. Schiaparelli demonstrated the capability of ESA and European industry to perform a controlled landing on the surface of Mars.



  1. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Fears grow for European Schiaparelli Mars lander

    There are growing fears a European probe that attempted to land on Mars on Wednesday has been lost.

    Tracking of the Schiaparelli robot’s radio signals was dropped less than a minute before it was expected to touch down on the Red Planet’s surface.

    Satellites at Mars have attempted to shed light on the probe’s status, so far without success.

    One American satellite even called out to Schiaparelli to try to get it to respond.

    The fear will be that the robot has crashed and been destroyed. The European Space Agency, however, is a long way from formally calling that outcome.

    One key insight will come from Schiaparelli’s “mothership” – the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO).

    As Schiaparelli was heading down to the surface, the TGO was putting itself in a parking ellipse around Mars. But it was also receiving telemetry from the descending robot.

    That telemetry could now hold vital clues as to what happened in the crucial minute before the expected touchdown.

    This satellite is really the key part of the mission formally called ExoMars 2016 – a joint endeavour with the Russian space agency (Roscosmos). The TGO is going to spend the coming years studying the behaviour of gases such as methane, water vapour and nitrogen dioxide in the Red Planet’s atmosphere.

    If the robot is later confirmed as lost, it will clearly be a major blow to Esa which suffered the disappointment of the Beagle-2 lander’s failure at Mars in 2003.

  2. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Schiaparelli’s descent to Mars

    Visualisation of the ExoMars Schiaparelli module entering and descending through the martian atmosphere to land on Mars.

    Schiaparelli will enter the atmosphere at about 21 000 km/h and in less than six minutes it will use a heatshield, a parachute and thrusters to slow its descent before touching down in the Meridiani Planum region close to the equator, absorbing the final contact with a crushable structure.

    exomars media kit

  3. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Vaisala and Finnish Meteorological Institute Head for Mars with the ExoMars Mission

    ​​​Vaisala Corporation Press Release March 8th, 2016
    Vaisala humidity and pressure sensors are again heading for the planet Mars, incorporated in the instrumentation built by the Finnish Meteorological Institute. The ExoMars spacecraft is launched on 14th of March, 2016. The program is realized by the European Space Agency in cooperation with the Russian Federal Space Agency, Roscosmos.

    Researching the Pressure and Humidity of the Martian Atmosphere

    Vaisala has provided the ExoMars 2016 mission with standard Vaisala HUMICAP® humidity sensors, and two different, specially customized Vaisala BAROCAP® pressure sensors. The pressure sensors were verified at Vaisala to enable the measurement of extremely low pressures on Mars.

    The humidity sensor and the smaller pressure sensor are used in Vaisala radiosondes in meteorological measurements, while the larger pressure sensor is used in process measurements.

    “The Finnish Meteorological Institute has been using Vaisala sensors for space research thanks to their stability,”

    “The Finnish Meteorological Institute is well respected for its high quality space instrumentation”

  4. Tomi Engdahl says:

    ESA waits on status of Schiaparelli probe after descent to Mars

    European scientists hope to go one better than the failed Beagle 2 mission as they wait for a signal from the Red Planet.

    A European space probe has descended to Mars on a mission to look for signs of life – but scientists are waiting for a signal to establish if it is operational.

    Schiaparelli fell through the atmosphere on a six-minute descent using a heatshield, parachute and rocket boosters to slow it down from 13,000mph.

    British-built Beagle 2 made it to the surface of the Red Planet in 2003 but failed to send a signal back to Earth.

    Several hours later there was still no new communication from Schiaparelli.

    Paolo Ferri, ESA head of missions operations, said: “We saw the signal through the atmospheric phase, the descent phase – at a certain point it stopped.

    “This was unexpected but we couldn’t conclude anything from that because this very weak signal picked up on ground was coming from an experimental tool.

    “It is clear these are not good signs.”

    For the ESA the landing is a “technology demonstrator” – a test of the descent system it hopes to use in 2020 to put a robotic rover on the surface.

    Schiaparelli’s batteries will last just a couple of days and it has only a handful of instruments to monitor the weather.

    Meanwhile, the mothership that carried Schiaparelli 310 million miles (500 million km) from Earth began a series of engine burns to slow it enough to begin orbiting Mars.

    Over the next year it will decrease the size of its orbit to just 250 miles (400km) above the surface.

    The Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO), as it is properly known, will then begin analysing the make-up of the atmosphere.

  5. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Schiaparelli Mars Lander Likely Crashed on Descent
    The European Space Agency lost contact with the Schiaparelli probe after it jettisoned its heat shield and deployed its parachute

    Signals from Schiaparelli communicated through the Trace Gas Orbiter, the other half of the 2016 ExoMars Mission, confirm that its entry into Mar’s atmosphere and initial descent went according to plan. But something went wrong about 50 seconds before touchdown after the 1,323-lb craft had ejected its heat shield and deployed its parachutes. Mission scientists are not sure exactly what occurred, but are examining data from the descent. The fault may lie in the lander’s parachute being ejected too early and its thrusters turning off too soon,

    “Schiaparelli’s primary role was to test European landing technologies. Recording the data during the descent was part of that, and it is important we can learn what happened, in order to prepare for the future,” says Jan Wörner, ESA Director General.

    This is not the first time the ESA has lost a vessel sent on a mission to Mars. In 2003, the Beagle 2, part of the ESA’s Mars Express mission, lost contact while descending to the surface of Red Planet. It was not until 2015 when NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter found the craft

    Other Mars missions have met similarly grim fates. Over a 60-year span, for instance, the USSR and later Russia launched over a dozen failed attempts to put an orbiter around Mars or reach the surface of the planet or its moon, Phobos.

    NASA’s track record has not been perfect either.
    There have been high-profile successful missions like the Mariner and Viking programs
    Pathfinder and Opportunity and Spirit rover missions

    Failures like this are inevitable in the complicated devices launched into the great beyond.

  6. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Mars lander was destroyed

    Widely followed Schiaparelli Mars lander crashed in Wednesday’s fall miserably. An abortive landing crashed in the Finnish sensing and information technology.

    Last Wednesday, the descent of the original did not go according to plan, but Schiaparelli was crushed by too high speeds on the surface of Mars.

    Measuring systems of the atmospheric pressure and humidity developed by the Finnish Meteorological Institute measuring devices DREAMS-P and H-DREAMS. They were also involved in Vaisala sensor technology.

    Vaisala humidity sensors and pressure sensors are part of the same types of devices as the Finnish Meteorological Institute in NASA’s Curiosity rover involved.


  7. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Computing glitch may have doomed Mars lander
    Researchers sift through clues after Schiaparelli crash in hopes of averting mistakes in 2020 mission.

    Photos of a huge circle of churned-up Martian soil leave few doubts: a European Space Agency (ESA) probe that was supposed to test landing technology on Mars crashed into the red planet instead, and may have exploded on impact.

    The events of 19 October may be painful for ESA scientists to recall, but they will now have to relive them over and over again in computer simulations. The lander, called Schiaparelli, was part of ESA’s ExoMars mission, which is being conducted jointly with the Russian Space Agency Roscosmos. It was a prelude to a planned 2020 mission, when researchers aim to land a much larger scientific station and rover on Mars, which will drill up to 2-metres down to look for signs of ancient life in the planet’s soil. Figuring out Schiaparelli’s faults and rectifying them is a priority, says Jorge Vago, project scientist for ExoMars. “That’s super important. I think it’s on everybody’s mind.”

    Anatomy of a crash

    Unlike the British-led and ESA-operated Beagle 2 mission, which disappeared during its landing on Mars on Christmas Day 2003, Schiaparelli sent data to its mother ship during its descent. Preliminary analysis suggests that the lander began the manoeuvre flawlessly, braking against the planet’s atmosphere and deploying its parachute. But at 4 minutes and 41 seconds into an almost 6-minute fall, something went wrong. The lander’s heat shield and parachute ejected ahead of time, says Vago. Then thrusters, designed to decelerate the craft for 30 seconds until it was metres off the ground, engaged for only around 3 seconds before they were commanded to switch off, because the lander’s computer thought it was on the ground.

    The lander even switched on its suite of instruments, ready to record Mars’s weather and electrical field, although they did not collect data. “My guess is that at that point we were still too high. And the most likely scenario is that, from then, we just dropped to the surface,” says Vago.

    The craft probably fell from a height of between 2 and 4 kilometres before slamming into the ground at more than 300 kilometres per hour,

  8. Tomi Engdahl says:

    ESA: European Mars Lander Crash Caused By 1-Second Glitch

    The European Space Agency (ESA) on Nov. 23 said its Schiaparelli lander’s crash landing on Mars on Oct. 19 followed an unexplained saturation of its inertial measurement unit (IMU), which delivered bad data to the lander’s computer and forced a premature release of its parachute. Polluted by the IMU data, the lander’s computer apparently thought it had either already landed or was just about to land.

    European Mars Lander Crash Caused by 1-Second Glitch: ESA

    Here’s how ESA’s Schiaparelli Mars entry, descent and landing experiment should have worked. Instead, an error in its inertial measurement unit infected its navigation system and caused the onboard computer to act as though it had already landed. In fact it was still 3.7 kilometers above the Mars surface.

  9. Tomi Engdahl says:

    ‘Data saturation’ helped to crash the Schiaparelli Mars probe
    Altitude reading of ‘below ground level’ turned probe into Magrathean Whale

    The European Space Agency (ESA) has released results of its early investigations into the crash of the Schiaparelli Mars probe and it sounds like software may have been a part of the problem.

    “A large volume of data recovered from the Mars lander shows that the atmospheric entry and associated braking occurred exactly as expected,” says the agency’s statement.

    The probe’s parachute popped out as planned and its heat shield flew off at just the right time.

    “As Schiaparelli descended under its parachute, its radar Doppler altimeter functioned correctly and the measurements were included in the guidance, navigation and control system,” the statement says. “However, saturation – maximum measurement – of the Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) had occurred shortly after the parachute deployment. The IMU measures the rotation rates of the vehicle. Its output was generally as predicted except for this event, which persisted for about one second – longer than would be expected.”

    That saturation caused problems because it meant that when IMU data was “merged into the navigation system, the erroneous information generated an estimated altitude that was negative – that is, below ground level.”

  10. Tomi Engdahl says:

    ESA: Sorry about Schiaparelli, can we have another €400 mill?
    Pitch prepped, European Space Agency to press flesh at ministerial confab

    Later this week in Lucerne, Switzerland, the European Space Agency (ESA) will ask its 23 member states’ ministers for a €400 million top-up to its ExoMars program.

    In an audio conference on Friday, director of human spaceflight and robotic exploration David Parker said the cash injection “includes all the technical work needed to take the vehicle up to the launch phase”.

    The original ExoMars budget was €1.5 billion.

  11. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Mars isn’t the garbage wasteworld you think it is: Swirling polar ice cap photographed
    Santa’s second home revealed in space snaps

    Pics Mars is not quite the featureless red wasteland scientists once thought it was. New images from the European Space Agency’s Mars Express probe orbiting the Red Planet have revealed delicate swirls of ice at the alien world’s north pole.


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