The European Space Agency’s probe Schiaparelli was supposed to land on Mars on October 19.
The ExoMars mission was hoping to land the module at 3:48PM BST, but no signal from it has been received so far.
The Schiaparelli lander is named after the 19th century Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli. He was born on March, 14, 1835, 181 years to the very day before the launch of the mission that bears his name.
A radio transmission that should have allowed scientists to follow the probe to the surface was not received.
Image source ESA
Controllers hope that satellites in orbit at Mars will have detected it and will shortly be able to confirm that the probe got down safely.
Landing on Mars is always a daunting prospect.
It is a high-speed approach that has to be got just right or the spacecraft runs the risk of crashing into the ground.
Schiaparelli had a heatshield, a parachute and rocket thrusters to try to get itself to the surface intact.
The ESA will not be rushed to judgement on whether this mission has been a success or a failure.
It will wait on the reports of the satellites. Both European and American orbiters were tasked with tracking the event.
If Schiaparelli is later confirmed as down and safe, it will spend the next few days making measurements of the Martian environment and current weather conditions – at least until its batteries run out.
European Space Agency’s Rosetta probe has arrived at comet 67P after a 10-year chase.
In a first for space history, the spacecraft was maneuvered alongside a speeding body to begin mapping its surface in detail.
The European spacecraft fired its thrusters for six and a half minutes to finally catch up with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
“We’re at the comet!” said Sylvain Lodiot of the ESA operations centre in Germany.
“After 10 years, five months and four days travelling towards our destination, looping around the Sun five times and clocking up 6.4 billion km, we are delighted to announce finally <<we are here>>,” said Jean-Jacques Dordain, director general of ESA.
Rosetta probe has arrived at comet 67P after a 10-year chase (photo ESA)
Launched on board an Ariane rocket in March 2004, Rosetta has taken a long route around our Solar System to catch up with comet 67P.
In a series of fly-pasts, the probe used the gravity of the Earth and Mars to increase its speed during the 6 billion km chase.
To save energy, controllers at ESA’s centre in Darmstadt, Germany, put Rosetta into hibernation for 31 months.
In January they successfully woke the craft from its slumber as it began the final leg of the daring encounter.
For the past two months, Rosetta has been carrying out a series of maneuvers to slow the probe down.
The comet is travelling at 55,000km per hour (34,175 mph). The spacecraft’s speed has been adjusted so that in relative terms it will be flying beside the comet at a slow walking pace of 1m/sec (2.2mph).
At a distance of 550 million km from the Earth, messages are taking over 22 minutes to get to Rosetta.
The distances involved are so great that the complex final command sequence for Wednesday’s crucial thruster burn had to be issued on Monday night.
Rosetta will have to continue to fire its thrusters every few days to maintain a hyperbolic orbit at 100km above the rotating rock.
The craft will then travel alongside the comet for the next 15 months, studying it with a range of instruments.
Rosetta has been taking increasingly detailed photographs of 67P as it gets closer. The mysterious comet has been dubbed the “rubber duck”, as some images seem to show the familiar shape as it twirls in space.
GOCE satellite has re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere, burning up in the process.
Early estimates suggested any surviving debris of the European Space Agency’s (ESA) satellite could have fallen somewhere along a path through East Asia and the Western Pacific to Antarctica.
Dubbed the “Ferrari of space” because of its sleek looks, GOCE is the first ESA mission to make an uncontrolled re-entry in more than 25 years.
The gravity mapping probe’s plunge was inevitable once it ran out of fuel.
The mission was operating in an extremely low orbit – at 139 miles altitude, the lowest of any scientific satellite – and needed to constantly thrust an electric engine to stay aloft, but last month its fuel reserves were exhausted.
Pre-return modelling had indicated that perhaps a fifth to a quarter of GOCE’s one-tonne mass could have endured the fiery fall through the atmosphere.
Its sophisticated gradiometer – the instrument used to make gravity measurements – incorporated composite materials that were expected to ride out the destructive forces that would ordinarily incinerate traditional components.
GOCE was last observed at 22:42 GMT on Sunday as it passed 75 miles above Antarctica.
GOCE satellite has re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere, burning up in the process
It has fuel and thrusters to direct its destructive dive towards the vast and uninhabited waters of the Southern Ocean, east of New Zealand.
The Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee – the global forum on “space junk” – chose GOCE as its special study project for 2013.
This meant a large number of tracking and surveillance facilities around the world were activated to monitor the satellite’s descent to Earth.
More detailed information is therefore likely to emerge in the coming hours and days on exactly where and when any materials struck the surface of the planet.
Statistics show that there is typically at least one piece of space “junk” re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere every day; with, on average, one intact defunct spacecraft or old rocket body coming back every week.
ESA’s last mission to make an uncontrolled re-entry was the magnetosphere explorer Isee-2, which came back in 1987.
ESA does, however, regularly manage controlled re-entries. Its space station freighter, the Automated Transfer Vehicle, can weigh some 13 tonnes when it comes back to Earth.
GOCE (Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer) was launched in 2009 as part of a series of innovative environmental research satellites.
Its super-sensitive gradiometer was used to detect the tiny variations in the pull of gravity across the surface of the Earth.
GOCE’s maps have very broad applications. The data is a key reference in civil engineering for relating heights measured at widely separated locations, and for the computer models that need to understand how the oceans move to forecast future changes in climate.
Europe has taken the final decision regarding Euclid telescope space mission to investigate the “dark universe”.
The Euclid telescope will look deep into the cosmos for clues to the nature of dark matter and dark energy.
These phenomena dominate the Universe, and yet scientists concede they know virtually nothing about them.
European Space Agency (ESA) member states made their decision at a meeting in Paris. Euclid should be ready for launch in 2019.
ESA nations had already selected the telescope as a preferred venture in October last year, but Tuesday’s “adoption” by the Science Programme Committee (SPC) means the financing and the technical wherewithal is now in place to proceed.
The cost to ESA of building, launching and operating Euclid is expected to be just over 600 million Euros ($760 million). Member states will provide Euclid’s visible wavelength camera and a near-infrared camera/spectrometer, taking the likely cost of the whole endeavor beyond 800 million Euros.
The Euclid telescope will look deep into the cosmos for clues to the nature of dark matter and dark energy
The US has been offered, and will accept, a junior role in the mission valued at around 5%. The American space agency (NASA) will pay for this by picking up the tab for the infrared detectors needed on Euclid. A memorandum of understanding to this effect will be signed between the agencies in due course.
“We have negotiated a detailed text with NASA, which both parties consider final, and it is ready for signature,” said Dr. Fabio Favata, Esa’s head of science planning.
“It will mean a small, commensurate number of US scientists will be welcomed into the Euclid Consortium,” he said.
The consortium is the team that will have access to Euclid’s data.
The adoption also will now trigger the release to industry of invitations to tender. Europe’s two big space companies – Astrium and Thales Alenia Space – are certain to bid to build Euclid.
A key task of the telescope will be to map the distribution of dark matter, the matter that cannot be detected directly but which astronomers know to be there because of its gravitational effects on the matter we can see.
Galaxies, for example, could not hold their shape were it not for the presence of some additional “scaffolding”. This is presumed to be dark matter – whatever that is.
Although this material cannot be seen directly, the telescope can plot its distribution by looking for the subtle way its mass distorts the light coming from distant galaxies. Hubble famously did this for a tiny patch on the sky – just two square degrees.
Euclid will do it across 15,000 square degrees of sky – a little over a third of the heavens.
Dark energy represents a very different problem, and is arguably one of the major outstanding issues facing 21st-Century science.
This mysterious force appears to be accelerating the expansion of the Universe. Recognition of its existence and effect in 1998 earned three scientists a Nobel Prize last year.
Euclid will investigate the phenomenon by mapping the three-dimensional distribution of galaxies.
The patterns in the great voids that exist between these objects can be used as a kind of “yardstick” to measure the expansion through time.
Again, ground-based surveys have done this for small volumes of the sky; Euclid however will measure the precise positions of some two billion galaxies out to about 10 billion light-years from Earth.
Euclid was selected as a “medium class” mission, meaning its cost to ESA should be close 475 million Euros. The fact that member states are going 125 million Euros beyond this “guide price” gives an indication of just how highly this mission is regarded.
“ESA have realized this science is so compelling, they just have to do it,” said Prof. Bob Nichol from the University of Portsmouth, UK.
“They’ve got a great design and great team, and bravo to them for getting on with it. Every so often you do things that are revolutionary, and Euclid will be one of those transformational missions.”
Flying Euclid will give Europe an important lead in a key area of astrophysics.
The Americans would dearly love to fly their own version of Euclid, but there is no money in the NASA budget currently to make this happen.
The US agency was recently gifted two Hubble-class spy telescopes by the National Reconnaissance Office, but even with this donation NASA is short of the hundreds of millions of dollars needed to turn one of them into a dark mission.
One key design difference between the US concept and Euclid would be the emphasis the American mission would place on using exploded stars, supernovas, as markers to measure the expansion rate of the Universe.
This was the approach used by the Nobel Prize winners (Saul Perlmutter and Adam Riess of the US and Brian Schmidt of Australia). It is not a technique in the primary science of Euclid, but Prof. Bob Nichol said it could be deployed at some stage.
“That option is still there and is still being debated,” he said.
“It could be done at the end of the main mission, if we get an extension. We could also do some supernova work during the mission. If certain parts of the sky that we want to look at are not immediately amenable, we could go look for supernovas.
“I believe we could do a fantastic supernova survey, and the Nobel Prize winners are very much involved in how to build such a programme into Euclid. They’re brilliant scientists and it would be awesome to have them on board.”
The instrument will produce pictures of the sky more than 100 times larger than Hubble can. This will minimise the amount of “stitching” of images required to build Euclid’s maps, making it easier to trace some of the subtle effects astronomers are trying to detect.