October 19, 2016 - 19:31 AMT
No signal from European Schiaparelli Mars lander

The European Space Agency is still waiting for confirmation that its Schiaparelli probe has landed on Mars, BBC News reports.

The saucer-shaped robot was supposed to have touched down on the Red Planet just before 1500 GMT (1600 BST).

A radio transmission that should have allowed scientists to follow the probe to the surface was not received.

Controllers hope that satellites in orbit at Mars will have detected it and will shortly be able to confirm that the probe got down safely.

Landing on Mars is always a daunting prospect.

It is a high-speed approach that has to be got just right or the spacecraft runs the risk of crashing into the ground.

Schiaparelli had a heatshield, a parachute and rocket thrusters to try to get itself to the surface intact.

The European Space Agency will not be rushed to judgement on whether this mission has been a success or a failure.

It will on the reports of the satellites. Both European and American orbiters were tasked with tracking the event.

If Schiaparelli is later confirmed as down and safe, it will spend the next few days making measurements of the Martian environment and current weather conditions - at least until its batteries run out.

The science return may seem limited, but the probe was largely conceived as a technology demonstrator - a project to give Esa scientists and engineers the confidence to try to land a more ambitious six-wheeled rover on Mars in 2021.

This future vehicle will drill below the surface of the planet in a number of locations to search for the presence of microbial organisms.