"This is still a very preliminary conclusion of our technical investigations," said David Parker, ESA's Director of Human Spaceflight and Robotic Exploration, in the statement. "The full picture will be provided in early 2017 by the future report of an external independent inquiry board."
Despite the failure, ESA seemed pretty positive about the experience, which will give it vital data for the upcoming attempted landing of its ExoMars rover in 2021. Of course, a successful landing probably would have been a bit more useful, but hopefully enough has been learned that this mission – which will search for past and present life on Mars – can proceed without a hitch.
And there was some good news too, as the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) – the orbiting spacecraft that carried Schiaparelli to Mars – is starting its first science observations of the Red Planet, with full science operations scheduled to begin in March 2018.
Still, it’s a somber farewell for Schiaparelli. But this isn’t the first time an incorrect measurement has resulted in the failure of a Mars spacecraft; NASA’s Mars Climate Orbiter infamously disintegrated in the Martian atmosphere in 1999 due to a mix up with metric and imperial units.
It's worth making sure, then, that if you do plan to land on Mars, get your maths right – or you might find yourself up in the air when you think you're underground.
This is how the landing should have gone, but things went wrong at an altitude of 3.7 kilometers. ESA/ATG medialab