Please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar to the right. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.
While Europe’s Trace Gas Orbiter has successfully gone into orbit around Mars, it remains unknown whether the lander Schiaparelli was able today to land successfully on the surface.
The carrier signal from Schiaparelli recorded by Mars Express abruptly ended shortly before landing, just as the beacon tone received by a ground-based radio telescope in India stopped in real-time earlier today.
Paolo Ferri, head of ESA’s mission operations department, just gave an update on the situation. “We saw the signal through the atmospheric phase — the descent phase. At a certain point, it stopped,” Ferri said. “This was unexpected, but we couldn’t conclude anything from that because this very weak signal picked up on the ground was coming from an experimental tool.
“We (waited) for the Mars Express measurement, which was taken in parallel, and it was of the same kind. It was only recording the radio signal. The Mars Express measurement came at 1830 (CEST) and confirmed exactly the same: the signal went through the majority of the descent phase, and it stopped at a certain point that we reckon was before the landing.
“There could be many many reasons for that,” Ferri said. “It’s clear these are not good signs, but we will need more information.”