Crash landing fear

FRANKFURT/BERLIN – Thrusters intended to slow a European lander as it neared Mars on Wednesday fired for less time than expected before contact with the vehicle was lost, leaving scientists uncertain whether it touched down safely or broke apart.

The Schiaparelli probe, part of a broader mission to search for evidence of life on the Red Planet, was to test technologies during the descent and on the surface for a rover scientists hope to send to Mars in 2020. Its descent marked only the second European attempt to land a craft on Mars, but it has shown no signs of life since it stopped transmitting around 50 seconds before Wednesday’s planned touchdown.

“We’ve had two over flights (by Mars orbiters) and there was no signal,” the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Spacecraft Operations Manager Andrea Accomazzo told journalists on Thursday.

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