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Posted by Robert Vamosi on October 25, 2016
The European Mars lander, Schiaparelli, destroyed last week on the surface of Mars, may have been the victim of a software error, according preliminary data reviewed by researchers.
Last Wednesday, at approximately four minutes and 41 seconds into its entry, descent, and landing (EDL) sequence, the European Mars lander suffered a software glitch. According to Nature, Schiaparelli thought it was much closer to the surface and jettisoned its heat shield and parachutes prematurely. The lander then activated its retrorockets, but only for three seconds, and not the full thirty seconds as spanned due to confusion where it was in the atmosphere.
As a result, the craft slammed into the surface of Mars and was destroyed.
“My guess is that at that point we were still too high,” ExoMars project scientist Jorge Vago said in Nature. “And the most likely scenario is that, from then, we just dropped to the surface.”
The European Space Agency (ESA) notes that the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) did complete its maneuver into Martian orbit. It continues to operate as designed.
See how NASA used Coverity from Synopsys to check the code in its Curiosity Rover.