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Mars Space

ESA Lander's Signal Cut Out Just Before It Was Supposed To Land on Mars (arstechnica.com) 244

An anonymous reader shares an ArsTechnica report: On Wednesday, the European Space Agency sought to become the second entity to successfully land a spacecraft on Mars with its Schiaparelli lander. And everything seemed to be going swimmingly right up until the point that Schiaparelli was to touch down. The European scientists had been tracking the descent of Schiaparelli through an array of radio telescopes near Pune, India and were able to record the moment when the vehicle exited a plasma blackout. The scientists also received a signal that indicated parachute deployment. But during the critical final moments, when nine hydrazine-powered thrusters were supposed to fire to arrest Schiaparelli's descent, the signal disappeared. At that point, the European Space Agency's webcast went silent for several minutes before one of the flight directors could be heard to say, "We expected the signal to continue, but clearly it did not. We don't want to jump to conclusions."
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ESA Lander's Signal Cut Out Just Before It Was Supposed To Land on Mars

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  • Really? (Score:5, Funny)

    by PCM2 ( 4486 ) on Wednesday October 19, 2016 @12:44PM (#53108301) Homepage

    Seriously? This is a joke... I mean, who thought sending a mission to Mars would be this hard?

    • should work with live people

      • Re:Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Wednesday October 19, 2016 @12:53PM (#53108383) Homepage

        Live people are much better with dealing with things when they go off script.

        • Right! You do however have to account some extra weight for things like ball point pens, duct tape, and paperclips, lots of paperclips.
          "Commander, the braking thrusters have failed and we have 12 seconds to impact!"
          "Hand me a box of paperclips, quickly... Dammit! Why did you seal the box with ductape! I'll never get it op..."

          Signal Lost
      • With live people, those live people will be able to make live decisions, on the spot. There will be much more of a dynamic operation with live people, whereas currently, they're setting most things up to statically unfold.
        • With live people, those live people will be able to make live decisions, on the spot. There will be much more of a dynamic operation with live people, whereas currently, they're setting most things up to statically unfold.

          Are you by chance one of Obama's science advisors?

        • by Holi ( 250190 )
          Unless reaction time is long enough then no. A computer will react far faster then it is possible for any human to.
        • by k6mfw ( 1182893 )
          Yes, people can make decisions that robots cannot but it's all moot. Right now and for next many years robots are the ***only*** option for Mars exploration.
        • Your arguing a per-programmed landing sequence with known physics is worse than a live astronaut controlling the landing when the time from initial problem to dead is literally 2-6 seconds. Most Humans couldn't even perceive the problem, develop a solution and react in that time frame.

          Landing on Mars is hard, you've got a gravity well that's about 8/10ths of the Earth with about 1/100th the atmosphere to slow you down. Terminal velocity is VERY fast and the timeframe to react and burn for a slowdown is seco

    • I'ts hard, yes, but the payout is well worth it.
    • Historically, Mars probes have had a very high failure rate. NASA techs have made jokes about "The Great Galactic Ghoul" being responsible.

    • Maybe someone forgot to use an English measurement and put in Metric instead.
    • everybody that has worked on mars missions.
      I worked on MGS, and can tell you that to be successful with most missions, you have to have a much higher level of quality compared to normal.
      Oddly, if ESA, Russia, CHina, etc wanted to really test this, they would send a duplicate around the moon and then land it on earth.
      That would test just about every subsystems in similar ways.
      • by slew ( 2918 )

        everybody that has worked on mars missions.

        I worked on MGS, and can tell you that to be successful with most missions, you have to have a much higher level of quality compared to normal.

        Oddly, if ESA, Russia, CHina, etc wanted to really test this, they would send a duplicate around the moon and then land it on earth.

        That would test just about every subsystems in similar ways.

        Since you worked on MGS, you probably know people at Nasa that would tell you that landing on earth is totally different than landing on mars (mainly because of the atmospheric density).

    • by Holi ( 250190 )
      Out of 54 attempts to make it to mars 28 1/2 have failed. So to answer your question. Everyone.
  • Can't the aliens leave our spacecraft alone?

    • by lgw ( 121541 ) on Wednesday October 19, 2016 @01:17PM (#53108595) Journal

      Can't the aliens leave our spacecraft alone?

      Another bold victory for the Mars defense force! Despite recent setbacks, we were able to repel the invaders. Let this be a message to the Terran aggressors: you just got luck last time.

      • by sconeu ( 64226 )

        I'm still waiting for word from our Supreme Leader, K'Breel!!!

        O Tackhead, where art thou?

        • by lgw ( 121541 )

          K'Breel was deposed and executed after his repeated failures in repelling the Terran aggressor. We don't speak of him. All hail mighty G'Ranee, Supreme Leader for Life!

          • >K'Breel was deposed and executed after his repeated failures in repelling the Terran aggressor. We don't speak of him. All hail mighty G'Ranee, Supreme Leader for Life!

            LATE-BREAKING NEWS FROM THE COUNCIL: VICTORY! The Council of Elders has confirmed the blueworlders' resumption of aggression upon our noble red sands. K'Breel, Speaker for the Council of Elders, addressed the planet thusly: OKAY. Okay, so I'm K'Breel (even though anyone on Slashdot can assume the mantle merely by declaring themselves

  • Martians (Score:4, Funny)

    by bored_lurker ( 788136 ) on Wednesday October 19, 2016 @12:51PM (#53108369)
    I think the little green men on Mars heard that the the Europeans have a long storied history of bringing diseases to the New Worlds and they blew it our of the sky with their ray guns.
  • Second? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Comboman ( 895500 ) on Wednesday October 19, 2016 @12:59PM (#53108435)

    On Wednesday, the European Space Agency sought to become the second entity to successfully land a spacecraft on Mars with its Schiaparelli lander.

    USA/NASA has had many successful landers and the Soviets [wikipedia.org] had a lander survive for 14.5 seconds after touch down. That's not great, but considering the ESA lander lost contact after firing the retro rockets before touch down, I wouldn't celebrate just yet.

  • The metric system isn't necessarily superior...

  • by Gravis Zero ( 934156 ) on Wednesday October 19, 2016 @01:03PM (#53108469)

    After a lengthy discussion with the ESA, I've been assured that the lander has definitely landed! On a side note, no word as to if it was a soft type landing or the usual hypersonic-impact-crater-forming type. ;)

  • . . . Except Mars, apparently.

  • All your Mars base are belong to us?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 19, 2016 @01:30PM (#53108737)

    Mars seems very difficult. NASA has had its failures there too, but on the balance, NASA seems to have a far better track record at doing complex things on Mars than anybody else out there.

    Which leads to the question: does NASA not share its magic recipes with the ESA? They have done shitloads of research into how to successfully land craft on other planets, and even run rovers. It's very hard from an engineering perspective. Do they not share the fruits of that research and labor with agencies like the ESA, so to improve everybody's odds?

    • by epine ( 68316 ) on Wednesday October 19, 2016 @03:40PM (#53109633)

      Of course NASA passed on decades of hard-won experience. They're not psychopaths.

      It went something like this:

      Dear ESA:

      Hire only the best and the brightest, keep the group challenged and engaged for decade upon decade, with frequent launch opportunities pushing the boundary of the possible at each and every iteration.

      N.B.: Sorry, there's no silver bullet.

    • by slew ( 2918 )

      Which leads to the question: does NASA not share its magic recipes with the ESA?

      You have to look back at the history of the ExoMars program to answer that.

      Originally, NASA was a partner and was going to supply a sky-crane decent module and Atlas rockets for payload launch to the program.

      Then 2012 budget cuts forced NASA to withdraw from the program. Undaunted, the ESA then brought on Russia as a partner to supply those critical elements of the program and of course the USA and Russia are on such good terms about exchanging technology...

      I hope that clarifies the situation...

  • Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't the Beagle 2 from 2003 the last attempt by ESA to land an orbiter on Mars? This one seems to have suffered a similar fate in landing. Hopefully not, but if it did then this probably doesn't bode well for public confidence in the ESA.

    • by suso ( 153703 ) *

      Sorry, I mean to land a lander. Obviously the orbiter should orbit. Maybe this was their mistake? ;-)

    • I don't know whether this is about the new one or the old one. Given the intelligence of the editturds it's a 50-50 call.

      I suppose I could read the article, but some traditions are worth respecting.

  • They'll find something else to die of - my guess, radiation poisoning (although freezing, suffocating and starving to death are all still on the list).
    • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) *

      Live people can act autonomously at landing.

      That all depends on how fast you land them...

  • I'm sure it got to the surface... now... functional or in a jumble of pieces... that's yet to be seen.
  • The Mars '98 Lander suffered a similar fate; in that case the rockets cut off too soon:

    Mars Polar Lander [wikipedia.org]
  • by jfdavis668 ( 1414919 ) on Wednesday October 19, 2016 @02:42PM (#53109271)
    It's just temporarily restricted.
  • by Megol ( 3135005 ) on Wednesday October 19, 2016 @03:13PM (#53109481)

    I think it just want some alone time. I know I do after doing a long journey...

  • by Chris453 ( 1092253 ) on Wednesday October 19, 2016 @03:33PM (#53109583)
    They had a problem converting inches to millimeters.
  • ... looking for his potato shipment.

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