New photos show Schiaparelli’s Mars crash site in colour

The crash site of the European Space Agency’s Schiaparelli module has been revealed in full colour, after NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter sent back new photos of the surface of Mars.

ESA says the photos, taken on Nov. 1, give new insight into the demise of the module, which was destroyed in October after hitting Mars at 300 kilometres per hour.

Primarily, the colour images confirm that a numbers of spots surrounding the crash site are likely fragments from the module, rather than imaging noise. A “bright fuzzy patch” could indicate where surface material from Mars was disturbed in the crash, the ESA said, or could be the result of a piece of the lander exploding.

Schiaparelli parachute

Two photos taken a week apart by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show how the parachute from the crashed Schiaparelli module has moved, presumably blown by winds on the surface of Mars. (NASA/ESA)

About 0.9 kilometres to the south of the crash, another colour photo from NASA’s orbiter shows where Schiaparelli’s parachute and rear heatshield came to rest. The outline of the parachute has changed since the last photo from NASA on Oct. 25, suggesting that the parachute has shifted in the Martian wind — a phenomenon that has been observed before.

“The images may provide more pieces of the puzzle as to what happened to Schiaparelli as it approached the Martian surface,” said ESA.

More pictures are planned in about two weeks, according to ESA, which is still investigating the cause of Schiaparelli’s failure.