Anxious ESA Awaiting Word on Mars Lander

Flight controllers lose contact with probe in final seconds of descent.

European flight controllers were in the dark Wednesday if their second attempt to land a spacecraft on Mars was successful.

The Schiaparelli lander was on track for a 10:48 a.m. EDT touchdown on Mars, but so far attempts to confirm the probe landed safety have been unsuccessful, the European Space Agency said during a live webcast.

"This is no reason for us to despair," said Andrea Accomazzo, ESA spacecraft operations manager.

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In a best case scenario, the lander's radio link to a telescope in India was cut off by geometry, not a mechanical problem. Schiaparelli was not designed to communicate directly with Earth.

Searching for landing signals within what Accomazzo called "an ocean of noise" in the radio transmissions will take time.

ESA had hoped to have confirmation of landing just 10 minutes after it occurred, the time it takes radio waves, traveling at the speed of light, to cover the 308 million miles between Mars and Earth.

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