The Science Geek

As most of you will already know, and much to our disappointment, the Schiaparelli probe failed to land successfully on Mars last Wednesday. The plan was that when it entered the Martian atmosphere, the spacecraft would immediately begin to slow down to 1700 km/h as a result of the friction caused by the atmosphere hitting its heat-shield.  When it reached this speed, and was 11 km above the Martian surface, a parachute would open for two minutes to slow it down to 240 km/h. The parachute would then be jettisoned to get it out of the way, allowing thrusters to fire like the brakes on an aeroplane.  The spacecraft would then touch down on the planet’s surface at a gentle 10 km/h.

schiaparelli_landing

Image from ESA

Unfortunately, what appears to have happened is that the parachute only opened for a few seconds and so failed to slow the spacecraft down. The spacecraft will have crashed into the surface at thousands of…

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