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Germany: ExoMars mission lander feared lost after successfully reaching orbit

4 20.10.2016 Инфо

The European Space Agency were unable to confirm whether the ExoMars mission lander had touched down successfully, after losing contact with it shortly after detaching its parachute. Speaking at a press conference in Darmstadt on Thursday, ESA's Head of the Solar and Planetary Missions Division Andrea Accomazzo said that it was difficult to judge whether the lander had touched down but that the preliminary data did "not match our expectations."
Accomazzo was however able to confirm that it had successfully reached orbit, "The EDM has entered the atmosphere of Mars, and most important - we have collected all the data, the engineering data that the EDM has produced throughout this phase," adding that this phase had gone according to mission control expectations.
Speaking on the signal loss, Accomazzo said "there's a point where the parachute is released and this is where the preliminary data that we have analysed from the EDM, do not match exactly our expectations. And this is what we have to understand. We have on ground all the data to understand what has happened there. Following this phase, the lander has definitely not behaved exactly as we expected," adding that there could be multiple reasons for this, "it could be that this parachute phase terminated too early and then we were far too high, or we had a behaviour during the parachute phase that led the lander to be far too low."
When asked whether the lander's structure endured the touch down, Accomazzo said it was difficult to say the likelihood, as the signal was lost. "The problem is that there were some conditions under which the lander should have landed, and we judge this as soft. Unfortunately, we are not in a position yet, but we will be, to determine the dynamic condition at which the lander has touched the ground. And then we'll know whether it could have survived structurally or not," concluded Accomazzo.
The ExoMars lander consists of two spacecraft, the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO), which will search for evidence of methane and other atmospheric gases on the Red Planet, and the Schiaparelli lander - an entry, descent and landing demonstrator - which will be focused on testing key technologies for future missions to Mars.
The ExoMars 2016 mission is a joint project betweeb the European Space Agency and Russia's Rocosmos.