The European Space Agency believes its missing space probe was destroyed on impact after plummeting to the surface of Mars on Wednesday. Nathan Frandino reports.
This is how the Schiaparelli space probe was supposed to land on Mars. First, a heat shield, then a parachute, and lastly a propulsion system... all combining for a gentle landing on the Red Planet. But Exomars flight operation director Michel Denis says that's not what happened. (SOUNDBITE) (English) EXOMARS FLIGHT OPERATIONS DIRECTOR, MICHEL DENIS, SAYING: "This didn't land softly as we would have liked to because the final phase of descent and landing did not function nominally." During the final phase, the European Space Agency lost contact with the probe. Denis says they believe the parachute was released too early and the engines came on for too little time. (SOUNDBITE) (English) EXOMARS FLIGHT OPERATIONS DIRECTOR, MICHEL DENIS, SAYING: "So basically Schiaparelli has reached the ground with a velocity which was much higher than it should, so several hundreds of kilometres per hour and is unfortunately then of course being, well, destroyed by the impact." When NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter passed by, it took photos of the landing zone, revealing a bright spot believed to be the parachute and a dark spot believed to be the impact crater. The probe was supposed to test technologies for a new rover scientists hope to send to Mars in 2020. But now they'll have to find out what exactly, went wrong.