Mars lander Schiaparelli probably exploded,…

Photos taken by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter reveal two new black spots on the surface of the red planet near the designated landing site for the European-Russian module.

Now they're closer to having answers thanks to a pair of images taken October 19th and 20th from high above the landing site by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

ESA estimated that the Schiaparelli lander dropped from an altitude of 2-4 kilometers at a speed of greater than 300 km per hour, eventually coming to a halt with a big explosion.

With the location of the crash landing now pinpointed, the NASA orbiter can aim its High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera (the most powerful camera ever sent beyond low-Earth orbit) to capture detailed images of the location.

Europe's Schiaparelli lander has reportedly exploded after slamming into the surface of Mars at the speed of a Formula One auto.

The images released by the European Space Agency (ESA) at a resolution of six metres per pixel show ominous features that were not there when the same spacecraft photographed the region in May this year. More importantly, it makes a future attempted landing more risky.

ESA scientists have been poring over data that the Schiaparelli lander transmitted before its signal was lost, to look for clues as to what happened.

The second was described as "a fuzzy dark patch roughly 15 by 40 meters in size and about 1 kilometer north of the parachute" and is likely to be the lander.

The new images show a dark spot in the place where the Schiaparelli was expected to land along with a lighter spot thought to be the spacecraft's parachute. ESA, however, said that these are just preliminary interpretations pending further analysis.

Schiaparelli was created to test technologies for a more substantial roving laboratory scheduled for launch in 2020, although the timing and design of that mission are now in doubt. This latter maneuver went well, and TGO is now circling the planet every 4.2 days on a highly elliptical path, ESA officials said.

However, the mission's larger mothership had successfully swung into orbit around Mars, where it will carry out tests to detect gases such as methane which could indicate the presence of life.

"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", David Parker, ESA's Director of human spaceflight and robotic exploration, said Thursday in a statement.

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