back to article Just what Europe needs – another bungled exit: Mars lander goes AWOL

It's not a great day for space watchers. The European Space Agency's Schiaparelli Mars lander may have failed during its descent to the Red Planet. Meanwhile, NASA's Juno spacecraft orbiting Jupiter has gone into "safe mode" unexpectedly. The Schiaparelli lander was carried to Mars from Earth by the ESA's Trace Gas Orbiter ( …

  1. DanceMan
    Mushroom

    There shouldn't have been a KaBoom!

    Landing on that planet has not proven easy.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: There shouldn't have been a KaBoom!

      So the "crushable structure" was the entire lander then?

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

        Re: There shouldn't have been a KaBoom!

        Looking at the map near the bottom of the BBC article on the subject, it looks like the crushable structure may have been the Opportunity rover. They seem to have landed Schiaparelli on top of it...

    2. smartypants

      Re: There shouldn't have been a KaBoom!

      Surely this could have been prevented if we had built another royal yacht Britannia. All those lazy scientists, or 'experts'... I've had enough of them!

      (sorry, doing my best to fit I to the new political reality where black is white.)

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: There shouldn't have been a KaBoom!

        The chances of anything landing on Mars are a million-to-one, he said.

      2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Kristallnacht v2.0 targets identified by words voiced and lay claims supported wholeheartedly?

        Surely this could have been prevented if we had built another royal yacht Britannia. All those lazy scientists, or 'experts'... I've had enough of them! ...... smartypants

        Talking of "experts"as we are, smartypants, and there are certainly more than enough of them littering and loitering practically everywhere and anywhere that has a see and virtual landscapes, here be a long read on what is gone wrong with them when they conspire and aspire to be an elite cult of an executive administrative organ ........ https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/oct/20/alan-greenspan-cult-of-expert-and-how-it-collapsed ...... lording it with cunning stunts and dodgy deeds done dirt cheap and cheerful.

        1. Alistair Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: Kristallnacht v2.0 targets identified by words voiced and lay claims supported wholeheartedly?

          Actually AMFM, I think the lander did indeed have big balls of fire. Or at least it was supposed to.

      3. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

        Re: There shouldn't have been a KaBoom!

        The Royal yacht is for diplomacy. Not so the Queen can go on her jollies.

        Get over it.

    3. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: There shouldn't have been a KaBoom!

      Latest reports say that the parachutes jettisoned too early and the rockets fired for 4 seconds instead of 30. So at least it won't need to use its drill to get under the Martian surface.

      Hopefully Matt Damon's potato crop is not damaged.

      The shoestring Beagle actually did a better job of landing, just the B&Q butt hinges on the panels were too stiff so they failed to open.

    4. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: DanceMan Re: There shouldn't have been a KaBoom!

      "Landing on that planet has not proven easy." For the Europeans. Not so much for the Yanks. At this rate the Chinese will beat the Europeans to it.

  2. Herbert Fruchtl

    They don't want us

    Seems to be obvious. Or was it the Brits calculating in imperial measures again?

    Btw., years of reading online publications have resulted in me automatically scrolling past Twitter screenshots, and now it's compulsive. Would it really be so hard, if you write an article, to actually write it, and not just pass on the source data?

    1. Camilla Smythe Silver badge

      Re: They don't want us

      Seems to be obvious. Or was it the Brits calculating in imperial measures again?

      Cough...

      http://edition.cnn.com/TECH/space/9909/30/mars.metric.02/

      In news elsewhere 'The Brits', or rather their supposed leaders, are intent on totally fucking over the country and doing a blistering job of it so whilst NASA can roger a space craft they have nothing on us.... unless.

      Oh, one notes that your user name, Herbert Fruchtl, appears to be a bit foreign. May one enquire what you are doing posting subversive messages to a UK website? Surely you have your own bit of the intertubes to play with and, as you should know, the #IPBill is going to let GCHQ sort you Foreign Johnnies out. God Save Mother Theresa. Rah! Rah! Rah! Tea and Biccies anyone. Jolly Hockey Sticks.

      Gosh Toodle Pip.

      Camilla Farquhar Farthington Smythe

      1. Herbert Fruchtl

        Re: They don't want us

        I stand corrected. Yanks using imperial measures... Brits at least would have had an excuse. It was their empire at some point.

        As to your insinuations about my name and certain political developments in this country: I signed up many years ago, in more innocent times, when "This is a tech forum. Why shouldn't I show my real name?" sounded entirely reasonable. The aforementioned developments would be a lot funnier if I didn't have my livelihood tied up on this island. Coming from a country that used to be (and still is) very good at xenophobia, I can tell you that it's not GCHQ that I am worried about. I can come up with a few bad scenarios, but let's not give them ideas.

        1. Camilla Smythe Silver badge

          Re: They don't want us

          The aforementioned developments would be a lot funnier if I didn't have my livelihood tied up on this island.

          I do hope you still have an exit strategy.

          Best Wishes

          CFFS

          1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

            LOVE and XSSXXXX to Camilla Smythe

            Dearest CFFS,

            The Internetworking of Things has moved on quite apace with AI in Cyber Command and Virtual Control of the Quantum Communications Space and IT Networks. Just ask if you dare win win the Office of Cyber Security and Information Assurance [ocsia@cabinet-office.x.gsi.gov.uk] to realise how far behind leaderships in the field the UKGBNI is. It is as well to be aware though that all such sorts of inquiries to those types of office places invariably trigger zero return response and another subject for listing and listening and watching on a no fly list. Such appears to be the very best that they can do with the intelligence and information being made and freely available to them and others too with briefs listening and watching for …… well, Great Game Changer Developments with Sublime Application Project Programming is something to consider is current and real/APT and ACTive and a Model Attacking Defence Force for Collapsed and Collapsing Star Systems/Corrupt Subversive and Perverted Coercive Executive Administrations, which you might like to view as right dodgy inept government of the masses wherever IT and Media is applied and responsible and unaccountable, and that be surely only subversive and coercive, corrupt and perverse whenever viewed through the lenses of paranoia and xenophobia.

            When Worlds are in Live Operational Virtual Environments, is everything different from ever before, and that makes the present a future with no past and a Brave New Orderly World Order to make with Global Operating Devices. Do you imagine a Bletchley v2.0 at ITs Work for REST and Play there? Or would such nowadays be a Private Pirate Operation and Renegade Rogue Enterprise which governments buy into with bond issues?

            And those be simple enough questions, El Regers, which when ducked when asked of systems, are right royally able and enabled to fcuk you.

            Roger that, Camilla Farquhar Farthington Smythe?

            Oh, and the above strategy is for all foreigner landers and hard Brexiteers

        2. pstiles

          Re: They don't want us

          cough

          the "imperial" in "imperial measures" denotes the *Roman* Empire where we (in theory) got our definitions of inch, foot, ounce and pound (etc.)

          1. 's water music Silver badge

            Re: They don't want us

            Camilla Smythe, Amamnfrommars, pedantry, good-natured ribbing and sarcasm offered and recognised. Could this tread get even better? jake, anything to add?

            1. Simon Harris Silver badge

              Re: They don't want us

              Jake will be replying soon, just waiting for the transmission lag.

              Didn't you know, he's already on Mars, planting American flags and farming potatoes.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Use real names? (was:They don't want us)

          My decision to never ever use my real name on any blog chat place or forum predates the Internet itself.

          It just took one email from a sysadmin advising me that what I said on Usenet, was inerasable, and visible to my employers.

        4. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          Re: They don't want us

          Brits at least would have had an excuse. It was their empire at some point.

          Despite it being rather pinkish, I'm pretty sure Mars was never part of the British Empire. Not for want of trying, I'm sure.

          1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

            Re: They don't want us

            If there had been Boers on Mars, a good reason would have existed to pay an impromptu vist!

          2. Simon Harris Silver badge

            Re: They don't want us

            "Despite it being rather pinkish, I'm pretty sure Mars was never part of the British Empire. Not for want of trying, I'm sure."

            Robert Rankin's books are accurate historical records, and I would have to disagree with you there.

            1. Vinyl-Junkie

              Robert Rankin's books are accurate historical records

              As are Bob Heinlein's. "Number of the Beast" definitely has Mars as part of the British Empire!

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: They don't want us

      Btw., years of reading online publications have resulted in me automatically scrolling past Twitter screenshots, and now it's compulsive.

      Me, too. It's also indicative of the worst kind of lazy journalism. Somehow I expected better of our antipodean cousins.

  3. DNTP

    Hope they get it working

    I sincerely hope the ESA manages to recontact their lander and get it working. Whenever I feel the temptation of pride in NASA's scientific achievements (such as Mars landings), I remember that my professional reference library is full of papers and studies by colleagues from more countries on Earth that I can name.

  4. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Schiaparelli shouldn't have been on Twitter while trying to land at the same time!

    Standard safety procedures that were somehow ignored! Then again, Schiaparelli is an Italian driver.

    The good news is now Mars has a new crater we can explore with the next rover.

  5. MondoMan
    WTF?

    "plasma noise"?

    It was my belief that the initial lander signal loss upon re-entry was due not to it being overwhelmed by "plasma noise", but rather to the plasma blocking signal propagation. A quick web search reveals a paper from the 1960s discussing ways to overcome the plasma blackout which suggests that the main issue is that the plasma strongly *refracts* radio signals so they do not reach the ground.

    Any commentards have actual knowledge about this?

    1. Vulch

      Re: "plasma noise"?

      "The ground" in this case would be the surface of Mars. Shuttles remained in touch during re-entry by relaying via the TDRS in geostaionary orbit above them. Mars Express and TGO were (hopefully) recording information from the lander for that reason.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "plasma noise"?

        TGO and Mars Express successfully recorded transmissions from the EDM.

        The following is taken from:-http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/ExoMars/Schiaparelli_descent_data_decoding_underway

        “In terms of the Schiaparelli test module, we have data coming back that allow us to fully understand the steps that did occur, and why the soft landing did not occur,”

        and also of note:-

        "The thrusters were confirmed to have been briefly activated although it seems likely that they switched off sooner than expected, at an altitude that is still to be determined."

        However, I really would not take that as being definitely being the failure event. People will have been up all night analysing the data, and it's easy to miss something in the small hours.

        Speaking as an engineer it's *very* positive that everything worked to get the telemetry back from the EDM during the descent. ESA knows a massive amount right now, less than a day after the event, much more than anyone does about the Beagle failure years later. That bodes extremely well for correcting the problem ready for the 2020 EXOMars rover mission.

  6. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    Juno "...a software performance monitor rebooted Juno's computer."

    I really like that way that NASA's Paranoid Programming Practices means that NASA doesn't even trust NASA, and so builds-in some fairly advanced watchdogs.

    The 'Belt and Suspenders' approach, backed-up with Duct Tape and heavy-duty (under)pants.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge
      Terminator

      Re: Juno "...a software performance monitor rebooted Juno's computer."

      Hal, open the pod bay doors.

      I am sorry Dave, I am afraid I cannot do that.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: Juno "...a software performance monitor rebooted Juno's computer."

        Performance was dangerously decreased as several management moons were spotted rising over the horizon.

  7. DougS Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Am I understanding this correctly?

    NASA's spacecraft orbiting Mars just happened to go into safe mode right at the same time contact was lost with the EU spacecraft?

    This will provide a lot of fodder for the conspiracy theorists!

    1. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: Am I understanding this correctly?

      No, you are not. Juno is not orbiting Mars.

  8. Yesnomaybe

    Shame

    Such a shame, very sorry this failed.

    1. Mage Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Shame

      It was though an experimental landing mechanism. The main mission is actually the satellite, the lander was only supposed to operate for a short period and establish if the landing tech actually works. Still, I agree it's a shame.

      I hope they got some useful telemetry to unravel where it went wrong.

      1. MAF
        Unhappy

        Re: Shame

        And to dig deeper holes to look for existing microbial life on Mars.

        However I think that the plan was to use the drill on the rover not the entire lander :-(

  9. kmac499

    Bungled? A tad harsh methinks

    Come on guys show a little solidarity with your fellow rocket scientists\engineers..

    Martian planetary defences do seem to be very efffective, Maybe once Brexit has gone through we could send Michael Gove on a trade mission to bring their tech back to defend the earth. Mind you sending Gove might improve this planet a bit anyway

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Bungled? A tad harsh methinks

      I think it's just stupid clickbait. Schiaparelli is a test for the real probe which isn't due to land until 2020. In any case, like the recent Space X explosion, it just goes to highlight how difficult some of this stuff is, especially when you're doing it for the first time.

      So I guess we'll be reading a lot more over the next few days over any telemetry that could be gathered and which, if any systems, survived the controlled crash.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Bungled? A tad harsh methinks

        "So I guess we'll be reading a lot more over the next few days over any telemetry that could be gathered and which, if any systems, survived the controlled crash."

        Sorry to be a pedant, but a back of the envelope calculation based on secondary school maths and Martian gravity of 3.711ms-2, a drop time of 19 seconds, and an initial height of 1km indicates an impact speed of around 316km/h or 196mph.

        If any systems have survived the crash, then they have exceeded the system requirements for impact velocity, probably by about 2 orders of magnitude.

        (Height and time taken from the above referenced BBC article.)

        Consider dropping a Mars bar (or confectionary of your choice) from waist height and dropping one from the top of the Shard. The Mars bar dropped at waist height will undergo a similar impact to the planned EDM lander impact after a 2 metre drop in martian gravity.

        The Mars bar dropped from the top of the shard will be going *slower* than the Schiparelli lander on impact, partly due to the 3 order of magnitude difference in the thickness of our atmosphere compared to that of Mars. (i.e. the height of the Shard makes up for the difference in the local value of G, but this effect is counteracted by our pesky air.)

        1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Re: Bungled? A tad harsh methinks

          I used the term "controlled crash" deliberately because of the thin Martian atmosphere and that landing, at least as we know it on earth, isn't really an option yet.

          I think they were testing a new "delivery" method. Success or failure may be determined by the amount of data they get back. Systems could have failed to work properly à la Philae, or everything could have worked well but they just landed in a shit place.

        2. Ashley_Pomeroy

          Re: Bungled? A tad harsh methinks

          So what if you drop one of those mini-cornetto things, and it falls point-down? How would you calculate the odds that a seagull might swoop down and carry it off?

          This is beginning to sound like a plot from Tales of the Unexpected. Suppose I attach the cornetto to a helium balloon, with a slow-burning match suspended beneath both of them on a metal chain, and the cornetto is doused in petrol. Could I use this to murder my unfaithful partner?

          That's why I read The Register. I want to know *everything*.

  10. Vinyl-Junkie
    Joke

    AI voice transmission from the probe...

    ""Hey! What's this thing suddenly coming toward me very fast? Very, very fast. So big and flat and round, it needs a big wide-sounding name like . . . ow . . . ound . . . round . . . ground! That's it! That's a good name- ground!

    I wonder if it will be friends with me"

    And the rest..... .....was silence"

    DNA has an apposite quote once again....

  11. tiggity Silver badge

    Yet another illustration that

    "On ground" planetary exploration / investigation is very, very difficult compared to remote analysis from

    above.

    And frankly I'm impressed the remote "from above" operations have the success rate they do given the difficulty of the task of getting there & deploying sensors, sending data back (without the worry of landing).

    The amazing performance & longevity of the Mars rover craft seems to have led people to think the "on ground" task is far easier than it is.

    (full disclosure - relative of mine worked for NASA & has lunar crater named after them)

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Yet another illustration that

      Why not give it to CAPITA for best cheap experience?

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: Yet another illustration that

        3h of Capita ... in SPAAACEEE! background ambience

  12. Your alien overlord - fear me

    Breaking up the party

    The lander was supposed to fuck up. That's what the boffins said before hand. It was being used as a test bed for the real lander in 2020.

    The fact it probably made a new crater and from above the shiney bits will glint in the sun looking like water won't confuse any of Mars orbiters in the slightest though !!!!

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Breaking up the party

      No, the lander was supposed to land and validate the whole technology, and not fail that early. Once again, an ESA lander utterly failed because one or more components didn't work as expected (Huygens too had a computer error that caused the loss of half the data). That means they can't be sure the 2020 lander will work, now. They didn't test a critical part of the technology.

      It is clear there are big issues in how ESA validates its systems, and attempting to hide the dust under the carpet is just dangerous, more failures to come, this way.

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge
        Thumb Down

        Re: Breaking up the party

        It is clear there are big issues in how ESA validates its systems

        Really? That doesn't seem at all clear to me. In fact having a test vehicle sounds a lot wanting to validate its systems before trashing even more expensive components. The success rate across all Mars missions thus far leaves a lot to be desired but I can't think of many recent ESA specific failings.

  13. Fred M

    Can't they just send Matt Damon to fix it?

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      No progressivism in space, please!

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. mosw

      I think the ESA already had Howard Wolowitz on loan from the US.

  14. Simon Harris Silver badge

    Units

    The Guardian has been insisting that Schiaparelli is the size of a paddling pool.

    If Schiaparelli really has been using non-standard El Reg units, it's not surprising it crashed.

  15. 0laf Silver badge
    Pint

    Sucessfully lithobraked

    "Retro rockets didn't fire for as long as expected", I suppose at that point the lithobraking came into play and the "crushable structure" became a 100% crumple zone.

    But it was a test run and I hope they get the data they need to avoid a rerun with their Armageddon drill probe in 2020. Landing a probe on another planet can't be easy.

    Glad to see the main mission is going to plan.

    Pints still due.

  16. MrKrotos

    Oooops sorry

    Seems the little green men on Mars thought it was a drone and shot it out of the sky (they have guns just like our American friends)

    They have said sorry and promise not to do it again :P

  17. cd / && rm -rf *
    Coat

    "the Juno spacecraft orbiting Jupiter has entered safe mode"

    Serves them right for using Windows. The first BSOD in space?

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I hope that somewhere, somehow, the shade of Colin Pillinger is allowing himself a wry smile.

  19. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Alien

    Last message from Schiaparelli

    Consistency of Martian surface--hard.

  20. F111F
    Coat

    Schiaparelli II?

    See title...

    ...and mine's the one with crushable hat in the pocket, thanks.

  21. annodomini2

    My Hypothesis...

    This plasma wake disrupts signals, therefore it lasted longer than anticipated, the craft didn't deploy the Chute in time, so once it reached it's desired release altitude it let go (early), the rockets were meant to fire for 30secs, but as the ship was travelling faster than expected it reached 2m early and cut the engines, BOOM!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: My Hypothesis...

      The landing sequence is pre-programmed onto the onboard systems, which are radiation hardened and won't have noticed the plasma. Or at least, we know the on board computer, networking and the radio weren't affected, because they were functioning during entry and we've got the telemetry back.

      Some engineers at least will regard their contribution to the lander design to be a resounding success...

  22. briesmith

    Speaking of Matt Damon...

    When the entry tube/airlock thing blows up wiping out the entire Martian ecology, the explosion is presaged by a few frames of film showing a whitish jet of something coming into the tube.

    Is this explicable or just a cock-up/necessary error (if the jet went out of the tube, as it surely would, we film-goers wouldn't see it).?

    Damon says he blew up the tube but did he?

  23. caradoc

    Maybe it was shot down by the locals. "Earth Attacks"

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