ExoMars orbiter in place – but no word on lander yet


Artist's impression of the ExoMars entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, Schiaparelli, separating from the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO).
ESA / ATG medialab

The European Space Agency's ExoMars 2016 mission – a two-part test mission at the red planet – successfully slotted the Trace Gas Orbiter or TGO into orbit yesterday.

But the lander, Schiaparelli, could well have crashed upon landing. Confirming this, though, could take weeks.

Andrea Accomazzo, ESA spacecraft operations manager, said "the lander has definitely not behaved as well as we expected" at a press conference today.

But Schiaparelli's many sensors successfully sent a "huge amount of data" to the mothership – the TGO above – and that information will be analysed in the coming days, adds David Parker, ESA head of human spaceflight and robotic exploration.

Accomazzo said it's impossible to know right now if the lander crashed or if it landed as it should have.

But finding out what happened in the lander's last moments will take time. "There's a lot we're going to learn," Parker says. "The ExoMars campaign has started."

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