The European space probe Schiaparelli may have crash landed on Mars after suffering problems releasing its parachute and firing retrorockets to slow its descent, it emerged today.
At a briefing this morning, the European Space Agency (ESA) said there had been technical failings in the final 30 seconds before landing.
Schiaparelli’s touchdown was supposed to prove that the ESA had the capability to land on Mars ahead of the second part of the ExoMars mission to place a rover on the planet in 2020, which will drill into the surface looking for signs of life on the Red Planet.
But there were fears that the problems could impact future funding. European ministers will meet later this year to decide whether to give the green light to the 2020 mission.
Andrea Acoomazzo, ESA Spacecraft Operations Manager, said that everything had gone to plan for the first five and a half minutes of descent but then events ‘diverged from what was expected’ during ejection of the parachute and heat shield.