A full-size model of the European ExoMars entry, descent and landing module, Schiaparell is seen during a press conference at the European Space Agency (ESA) Headquarters in Darmstadt, Germany October 20, 2016. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach
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Thrusters intended to slow a European lander as it neared Mars fired for less time than expected Wednesday before contact with the vehicle was lost, leaving scientists uncertain whether it touched down safely or broke apart.The Schiaparelli probe, part of a broader mission to search for evidence of life on the Red Planet, was to test technologies during the descent and on the surface for a rover scientists hope to send to Mars in 2020 .Its descent marked only the second European attempt to land a craft on Mars, but it has shown no signs of life since it stopped transmitting around 50 seconds before Wednesday's planned touchdown.Landing on Mars, Earth's neighbor and at its closest some 56 million km away, is a notoriously difficult task that has thwarted most Russian efforts and given NASA trouble as well.
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