What Happened to Schiaparelli?

New glimpses from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and ongoing data analysis are revealing the fate of the Schiaparelli lander.

Schiaparelli landing details

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s newest image of Schiaparelli’s landing site.
NASA / JPL-Caltech / University of Arizona

A week after Schiaparelli’s fatal plunge, a picture is emerging (literally) to explain what happened to the ExoMars lander.

There is no shortage of derelict spacecraft dotting the surface of Mars, some of whose ends have remained mysterious for decades. But unlike the loss of Beagle 2 in 2003 or NASA’s Mars Polar Lander in 1999, the European Space Agency’s Schiaparelli Entry, Descent and landing Module (EDM) demonstrator was designed to transmit data though all stages of descent. The Giant Metre-wave Radio Telescope tracking station in Pune, India and ESA’s very own Mars Express were listening to the lander’s “six minutes of terror,” during entry and descent.

What Happened to Schiaparelli?

Based on that data, here’s what appears to have happened. Atmospheric braking against the tenuous Martian atmosphere and parachute deployment were flawless and on time. Then, about 90 seconds prior to landing, things went awry.

First, the module jettisoned its heat shield and parachute early. Then to make matters worse, a computer glitch seems to have confused the lander, as miscommunication between its onboard navigational system and radar erroneously told Schiaparelli it was near the surface. So the braking rockets shut off after burning for only 3 seconds rather than the planned 60 seconds. At about 2 to 4 kilometers (1 to 2.5 miles) above the surface, Schiaparelli went into free fall.

Ultimately, Schiaparelli slammed into the Meridiani Planum region of Mars at an estimated 300 kilometers per hour (186 mph). The lander most likely exploded on impact. This past Friday (October 21st), NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured a view of an ugly new crater of Mars, as well as a white spot that appears to be the parachute, which seems to bear this story out.



30 Best SF Books in the Universe?

Saw this in File 770, and thought the list was quite interesting and worth a look.

DON’T SKIP OVER THIS. Steven Lovely picked “The 30 Best Science Fiction Books in the Universe” for Early Bird Books. You may think it’s only been ten minutes since you saw a list of sf/f greats, but this one includes a bunch of present day greats, too, like Ancillary Justice and Three-Body Problem.

The books are put in pigeon holes–Military SF, Cyberpunk, First Contact, etc.  But doing this, means a lot of books don’t make the list because they do not fit in the little boxes.  SF is already a fairly fluid genre, trying to class a book like Ender’s Game as either military SF or Space Opera is rather futile.  Shouldn’t here be a box for time travel?

OTOH, there are a lot of authors I’ve not heard of before, so worth taking a second look and maybe expanding my reading a bit.  As if there are enough hours in a day to read more than I already do!!





Montreal Stop Motion Festival Highlights

The full text of the Stop Motion Festival newsletter can be read HERE.

8th Edition Highlights

The 8th edition of Festival Stop Motion Montreal took place this past September 16th, 17th and 18th. On behalf of the entire team, we thank you again for having contributed to the success of our 2016 edition.

It is with pleasure that we bring you the highlights of our last edition. Access our complete “Festival Summary” case file with images. The summary is also available on our website through the home page.
Album photos / Photos albums

Accédez également à nos albums photos de la dernière édition sur notre site Internet:

Access our photo albums of the 8th edition on our website as well:








In case the sky should ever clear…  this storm may last another day or so.

LIVE AURORA WEBCAM: Skies above Scandinavia are glowing green in response to today’s geomagnetic storm. An aurora webcam at the Abisko National Park in Sweden is broadcasting the light show in real time. Watch it now.

Space Weather News for Oct. 25, 2016
STRONG GEOMAGNETIC STORM: A strong “G3-class” geomagnetic storm is underway on Oct. 25th as Earth enters a fast-moving stream of solar wind. The arrival of the solar wind stream was predicted, but the intensity of the resulting storm is greater than forecast. Tonight, Northern Lights around the Arctic Circle should be bright, and the glow could descend to northern-tier US states as well. Visit Spaceweather.com for more information.


First contact with the solar wind stream produced this outburst of auroras over Fairbanks AK on Oct. 25th. Photo credit: Marketa S. Murray.

More squashed dinos!

At the October 16th meeting, François and Keith made a lot of progress on our stop motion film project. Being in suite 700 really helped since they were able to set up in a bedroom and work without distractions and the effects of ambient lighting.

Unfortunately, this means they missed most of the meeting as well.  With a bit of luck, and François’ work schedule permitting, the last of the shooting will be completed at the November20th meeting.

And below, a rough cut of what our completed stop motion film will look like.