Sending a spacecraft on Mars is not easy, but putting it on the red planet without making a crater is just as difficult. The European Space Agency knows this very well and a recent parachute test raised serious questions as to whether the ExoMars 2020 mission would remain on schedule.
A previous test at the end of May seemed promising but was ultimately considered a failure because of the damage suffered by the two large parachutes that will do most of the work. This last test included an updated design of the parachute system, but the problem posed him again.
The ExoMars 2020 Lander is equipped with a complex parachute system that deploys in sequence to slow down the mission and allow a smooth landing. reached the Martian surface. Two large parachutes are pulled one after the other by smaller pilot falls, a total of four parachutes deployed successively.
The May test was broadly based, with the four trunking in the correct order, but both main trunking were damaged along the way. The same was true of the new test series, but ESA notes that it appears that the damage occurred before the full chute was fully inflated.
"It is disappointing that the precautionary design adaptations introduced as a result of the anomalies of the last test have not helped us to pass the second test, but as always, we remain focused and we work to understand and correct the flaw so to launch it next year, "said François Spoto, ESA, in a statement. "We are committed to using a system capable of safely delivering our payload to the surface of Mars in order to carry out its unique scientific mission."
The ExoMars 2020 team will now resume its work and try to design a solution. to the problem. The lander and the rover that accompany it are robust machines, but a forced landing would obviously cause a sudden stop of all that the ESA had planned for the mission.
With the mission scheduled for launch in late July or early August 2020, ESA will need a bit of luck to ensure that the date will be a fully functional and well tested parachute system.
This article appeared first (in English) on BGR