Schiaparelli Landing dashes hopes, dreams and Mars rover

Janelle Cammenga- Staff Writer

Much to the dismay of the European Space Agency (ESA), the Schiaparelli lander crashed into the surface of Mars on Oct. 19.

However, the ESA wasn’t too dismayed, as it plans to reuse much of the landing technology in other projects. After all, who’s to say that the failure was caused by the altimeter? Or the parachute? Or the aero shell that was meant to slow it down during its descent? Hopefully, no one will be saying such things, especially because, according to Daniel Clery of Science Magazine, all of those parts are being used in the 2020 ExoMars rover.

ESA first started to sweat over Schiaparelli’s landing when they lost the lander’s signal after its parachute was deployed. Analysis of the landing showed that the chute deployed successfully and the aero shell detached as it should have. Whether or not the stabilizing thrusters fired as they were supposed to is anyone’s guess.

At least the ESA had an optimistic twitter feed announcing the arrival on Mars. After all, even if the lander wasn’t communicating with the ESA, the ESA may as well communicate with the world.

Schiaparelli may have crash-landed on Mars, but the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) that brought the lander to the planet successfully made it into orbit. The Orbiter will track the amounts of methane in the atmosphere and pinpoint the source of the gases.

The ESA plans to emphasize the success of the TGO when gaining funding for the upcoming 2020 ExoMars rover. Because they need to sell the idea of launching a rover with the same landing technologies as the Schiaparelli failure, the ESA can use all of the talking points they can get.

NASA is also planning a 2020 Mars landing, and the Agency realizes that it could face similar problems.

“Every Mars landing teaches us things,” said Allen Chen, who will serve as the entry, descent and landing team leader for NASA’s 2020 mission. “The only true failure is to stop trying.”

Well, that, and crash-landing into the surface of another planet. By more skeptical accounts, that might be considered a failure, too.

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