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Schiaparelli: Image shows remains of European spacecraft on Mars

Published 27/10/2016

Handout photo dated 25/10/16 issued by the European Space Agency (ESA) which shows a 2.4 metre-wide crater and a long dark streak thought to be linked to the impact and possible explosion of the Schiaparelli probe. PA
Handout photo dated 25/10/16 issued by the European Space Agency (ESA) which shows a 2.4 metre-wide crater and a long dark streak thought to be linked to the impact and possible explosion of the Schiaparelli probe. PA

Remains of the European spacecraft that crashed on Mars can be seen in a new high resolution image from a Nasa orbiter.

The photo, taken on October 25, shows a 2.4 metre-wide crater and a long dark streak thought to be linked to the impact and possible explosion.

On October 19 the Schiaparelli probe fell from a height of more than a mile after it ejected its parachute and switched off its retro-rockets too early, scientists believe.

It smashed into the landing site near the Martian equator at around 300 km/hr (186mph).

The new image was captured by a high-resolution camera on Nasa's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

A white spot 1.4mk south of the crater has now been confirmed as the lander's 12m diameter parachute. It is still attached to the craft's discarded rear heatshield, which can clearly be seen.

The front heatshield, seen in an earlier photo, is believed to be about 1.4km east of the crash site.

A number of white dots around the scene of the crash which are too small to be properly resolved may or may not be related to the impact, say scientists.

Schiaparelli was carried to Mars by the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter spacecraft which is functioning normally.

From next year it will start sniffing the Martian atmosphere for traces of methane, which may have a biological origin.

Undated handout artist's impression issued by the European Space Agency of the separation of the ExoMars 2016 entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, named Schiaparelli, from the Trace Gas Orbiter. PA
Undated handout artist's impression issued by the European Space Agency of the separation of the ExoMars 2016 entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, named Schiaparelli, from the Trace Gas Orbiter. PA

The two-stage ExoMars mission is a bold attempt to search for signs of past or present life on Mars.

Schiaparelli was testing the landing system for a British-built rover to be launched on the second phase of the mission in 2020. ExoMars Rover will drill into the Martian surface and analyse samples for tell-tale evidence of life.

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