There's no definite answer yet as to the fate of the European Space Agency's lander that disappeared on its way to the surface of Mars.
While holding out faint hope, ground controllers said it seemed the paddling pool-sized lander's parachute may have been discarded too early, and its fall-breaking thrusters switched off too soon.
Further analysis must be done of some 600 megabytes of data Schiaparelli sent home before its signal died, to "know whether it survived structurally or not".
This would be Europe's second failed Mars landing in a row, joining a string of other unsuccessful attempts by global powers to explore our planetary neighbour's hostile surface.
Landing a spacecraft on Mars is notoriously hard and several past missions have failed, including the European Space Agency's previous attempt in 2003 with the rover Beagle 2.
A NASA photo a year ago showed finally that the craft had touched down, but its battery-recharging solar panels failed to deploy and it was unable to communicate. Schiaparelli - named for 19th century Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli, who dedicated his life to mapping and naming Mars' features based on his telescopic observations - reached Mars' atmosphere at an altitude of about 75 miles, traveling at some 13,000 mph, at 10:42 a.m. EDT.
No. 1 Alabama rolling as it heads into Texas A&M showdown
It's hard to believe, for instance, that Terrence Cody would be able to play on this defense and in this age of college football. Tatum came in the game at the expense of his redshirt, meaning his first snap as a Vol came while trying to block Alabama .
The pair comprised phase one of the ExoMars mission through which Europe and Russian Federation seek to join the United States in probing the alien Martian surface. Wörner denied that it would and reiterated that the lander was intended as a test demonstration of landing technologies. The Trace Gas Orbiter will analyze the atmosphere in order to help determine whether there is life on Mars.
It was equipped with a discardable, heat-protective "aeroshell" to shield it, and a parachute and nine thrusters to decelerate. During a press briefing this morning, ExoMars mission scientists confirmed that the lander's signal cut out about 50 seconds before landing, and that something went wrong in the final steps, right around when the parachute was jettisoned.
However, the signal was lost some time prior to landing, ESA said. "This ejection itself appears to have occurred earlier than expected, but analysis is not yet complete", ESA said in a statement.
Mars, the fourth planet from the Sun, has become a veritable graveyard for landers and rovers despatched to its surface from neighbouring Earth.
"The experimental test has yielded a huge amount of data and clearly we're going to have to analyze this in the days and weeks to come, but it gives us a lot of confidence for the future", said David Parker, ESA's director of human spaceflight and robotic exploration. "It's clear that these are not good signs", he said, "but we will need more information", adding that he was "confident" that the agency would find out what happened sometime on Thursday.