European Mars lander’s fate unclear, signs ‘not good’

DARMSTADT, Germany (AP) — The European Space Agency lost contact with an experimental Mars probe shortly before its planned landing on the red planet Wednesday. Scientists said that wasn’t a good sign for the Schiaparelli lander, but it was too soon to give up on the craft.

ESA successfully put Schiaparelli’s mother ship, which will analyze the Martian atmosphere, into orbit. But several hours after the lander was supposed to have touched down at 1448 GMT, there was no firm word on its fate.

“The signal (from Schiaparelli) went through the majority of the descent phase but it stopped at a certain point that we reckon was before the landing,” Paolo Ferri, ESA’s head of operations, said at mission control in Darmstadt, Germany.

“To conclude more on this, because there could be many reasons for that, we need more information,” he said. “It’s clear that these are not good signs.”

An update is expected today, he said.

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