What Happened to the ExoMars Schiaparelli Lander?

mars exomars
A full-size model of the European ExoMars entry, descent and landing module, Schiaparelli, with its parachute deployed revealed on ESA's open day, October 4, in the Netherlands. There is concern about the fate of the Schiaparelli Mars lander that lost signal after entering Mars's atmosphere Wednesday. Muirhead/Handout via Reuters

The fate of the Schiaparelli Mars lander remains uncertain after the European Space Agency (ESA) failed to make contact with the module Wednesday.

The probe is the first European spacecraft to attempt to land on Mars since the ill-fated Beagle 2, which crash landed and went offline in 2003.

The ESA is still attempting to make contact with the 1,272 lb Schiaparelli lander, having lost signal shortly after entering Mars's atmosphere.

#ESOC Ops Head Paolo Ferri reports "we still have much investigation to do" on @ESA_EDM #ExoMars

— ESA Operations (@esaoperations) October 19, 2016

"The signal went through the majority of the descent phase, but it stopped at a certain point that we reckon was before the landing," said Jan Woerner, director of the ESA. "It's clear that these are not good signs, but we need more information."

The Schiaparelli lander is part of the larger ExoMars mission that is aiming to land a rover on Mars in April 2021 and explore for signs of life. The lander is also carrying a small weather station that will measure temperature, humidity, dust and wind for the first few days of its mission.

"The ExoMars technology demonstration will provide valuable data on the atmosphere and its interaction with thermal-protection systems and aerodynamic decelerators," says Mason Peck, a professor of mechanical engineering at Cornell University and NASA's former chief technologist.

"So ExoMars is an important mission, certainly for science, but also for advancing the space technology that will put humans on Mars in the next couple of decades."

In a press release, the ESA said it would continue to search for a signal from the lander.

"A series of windows have been programmed to listen for signals coming from the lander via ESA'S Mars Express and NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and Mars Atmosphere & Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) probes," the statement read. "The Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT) also has listening slots.

"If Schiaparelli reached the surface safely, its batteries should be able to support operations for three to 10 days, offering multiple opportunities to re-establish a communication link."