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Crash site of ill-fated Schiaparelli probe found on the surface of Mars, says European Space Agency

The probe impacted the surface very close to its planned landing site, which allowed NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to take a picture of the crash site

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Crash Site
What is believed to be the crash site of the Schiaparelli probe in this picture taken by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. VOA
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  • The European Space Agency says it has found the crash site of its ill-fated Schiaparelli probe on the surface of Mars
  • ExoMars Flight Operations Director Michel Denis said that the probe impacted the surface very close to its planned landing site, which allowed NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to take a picture of the crash site
  • ESA engineers continue to study the data to try to find the reason things went awry

October 23, 2016: The European Space Agency says it has found the crash site of its ill-fated Schiaparelli probe on the surface of Mars.

“I believe we have found where Schiaparelli landed,” said ExoMars Flight Operations Director Michel Denis. “This didn’t land softly as we would have liked to, because the final phase of descent and landing did not function nominally.”

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He added that many aspects of the descent went as planned, but that the parachutes were “released a bit too early” and the engines designed to help slow down the craft only fired for a few seconds, which, in his words was “also too little.”

The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter and its entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, Schiaparelli, approaching Mars. The separation is scheduled to occur on 16 October 2016, about seven months after launch. VOA
The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter and its entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, Schiaparelli, approaching Mars. The separation is scheduled to occur on 16 October 2016, about seven months after launch. VOA

“So basically Schiaparelli has reached the ground with a velocity which was much higher than it should, so several hundreds of kilometers per hour and is unfortunately then of course being, well, destroyed by the impact,” he said.

Denis said the probe impacted the surface very close to its planned landing site, which allowed NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to take a picture of the crash site.

A roughly 15 meter by 40 meter dark patch is visible in the MRO photo. The impact site is about eight kilometers west of the planned touchdown spot near the equator at the Meridiani Plain.

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This NASA map shows the locations of landings on Mars. VOA
This NASA map shows the locations of landings on Mars. VOA

“One can see clearly the parachute, which landed after it was released at the right place and the place where Schiaparelli should have landed softly but unfortunately did not land softly,” he said. “But one can see this clearly in the pictures.”

ESA engineers continue to study the data to try to find the reason things went awry.

The probe was released from its mother ship, the Trace Gas Orbiter, Sunday, and over the ensuing days, it positioned itself for a landing. ESA lost radio contact with it about 50 seconds before it was scheduled to land.

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As with any landing on such a distant body, it’s tricky, with some calling the descent “six minutes of hell,” as the craft plunges toward the red planet at 21,000 kilometres per hour.

The ExoMars program is a joint effort with Russia and seeks to determine if there is or was life on the Red Planet. (VOA)

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USA: Everything you want to know about Security Clearance; Find out here!

A security clearance allows a person access to classified national security information or restricted areas.

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Former CIA Director John O. Brennan speaks at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, March 11, 2014. President Donald Trump revoked Brennan's security clearance Wednesday. VOA
Former CIA Director John O. Brennan speaks at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, March 11, 2014. President Donald Trump revoked Brennan's security clearance Wednesday. VOA

U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday revoked the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan. We take a look at what that means.

What is a security clearance?

A security clearance allows a person access to classified national security information or restricted areas after completion of a background check. The clearance by itself does not guarantee unlimited access. The agency seeking the clearance must determine what specific area of information the person needs to access.

What are the different levels of security clearance?

There are three levels: Confidential, secret and top secret. Security clearances don’t expire. But, top secret clearances are reinvestigated every five years, secret clearances every 10 years and confidential clearances every 15 years.

All federal agencies follow a list of 13 potential justifications for revoking or denying a clearance. VOA
All federal agencies follow a list of 13 potential justifications for revoking or denying a clearance. VOA

Who has security clearances?

According to a Government Accountability Office report released last year, about 4.2 million people had a security clearance as of 2015, they included military personnel, civil servants, and government contractors.

Why does one need a security clearance in retirement?

Retired senior intelligence officials and military officers need their security clearances in case they are called to consult on sensitive issues.

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Can the president revoke a security clearance?

Apparently. But there is no precedent for a president revoking someone’s security clearance. A security clearance is usually revoked by the agency that sought it for an employee or contractor. All federal agencies follow a list of 13 potential justifications for revoking or denying a clearance, which can include criminal acts, lack of allegiance to the United States, behavior or situation that could compromise an individual and security violations. (VOA)