The European Space Agency has said that the missing European space probe on Mars fell to the surface of the Red Planet from a height of two to four kilometres and was destroyed on impact.
The ESA’s assessment comes from an analysis of images taken by a NASA Mars orbiter.
The disc-shaped 577-kg Schiaparelli probe was sent as part of the programme to search for evidence of life. Contact was lost around 50 seconds before the expected landing time on Wednesday.
It led to uncertainty as to whether the lander had made it to the surface in good working conditions.
“Somehow the parachute has been released a bit too early and after that the engines, the main engines for the controller functions, but only for a few seconds which is also too little. So basically Schiaparelli has reached the ground with a velocity which was much higher than it should, so several hundreds of kilometres per hour and is unfortunately then of course being, well, destroyed by the impact,” said ExoMars Flight Operations Director, Michel Denis.
The joint Russian-European ExoMars programme is paving the way for a planned rover landing on the planet in 2020. It is expected then to drill for signs of life.
Despite the lander’s crash, the primary part of the mission has been a success, with Schiaparelli’s mothership brought into orbit around Mars.