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Here's A Detailed Picture Of Where A Spacecraft Crashed Into Mars

Look away now if the thought of lonely spacecraft smashing into Mars upsets you.

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter flew over the module's landing site a few days ago on 25 October and snapped the above picture.

You can see from the magnified parts of the image where the lander's parachute and heat shields ended up. But the most telling part is the apparent crater near the middle of the image made by the lander as it hit the planet, suggesting that it was travelling much faster than it should have been doing on impact.

ESA says:

The high-resolution images show a central dark spot, 2.4 m across, consistent with the crater made by a 300 kg object impacting at a few hundred km/h.

The crater is predicted to be about 50 cm deep.

The black markings around the crater are less easily explained. Schiaparelli, the module, should have been descending vertically, but the fact that most debris seems to be to the left of the crater would suggest it came it at an angle, pushing material out mostly in one direction as it crashed.

The Schiaparelli lander's main mission was to be a test of technology that could be used on future Mars missions. ESA has said that it transmitted most of the data about its six minute descent, only losing contact in the last minute before landing. It appears Schiaparelli entered the atmosphere as planned, but may have ejected its back heat shield and parachute too early.

Schiaparelli was part of the ExoMars 2016 mission. The mission also includes an orbiter called the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) that successfully made it into Mars orbit on 19 October, the same day the lander crashed.

Kelly Oakes is science editor for BuzzFeed and is based in London.

Contact Kelly Oakes at

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