October 30, 2016

"Photos of a huge circle of churned-up Martian soil leave few doubts: a European Space Agency (ESA) probe that was supposed to test landing technology on Mars crashed into the red planet instead, and may have exploded on impact."

nature: The most likely culprit is a flaw in the craft’s software or a problem in merging the data coming from different sensors, which may have led the craft to believe it was lower in altitude than it really was, says Andrea Accomazzo, ESA’s head of solar and planetary missions. by Elizabeth Gibney

'Accomazzo says that this is a hunch; he is reluctant to diagnose the fault before a full post-mortem has been carried out. But if he is right, that is both bad and good news.

'European-designed computing, software and sensors are among the elements of the lander that are to be reused on the ExoMars 2020 landing system, which, unlike Schiaparelli, will involve a mixture of European and Russian technology. But software glitches should be easier to fix than a fundamental problem with the landing hardware, which ESA scientists say seems to have passed its test with flying colours.

'“If we have a serious technological issue, then it’s different, then we have to re-evaluate carefully. But I don’t expect it to be the case,” says Accomazzo.'

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