Mars space probe lost after no contact with mission control

A space probe to Mars is believed to be lost after it failed to send back a signal after its descent to the Red Planet last night.

The Schiaparelli probe is thought to have been successfully landed on Mars after a seven-year journey but it is not known what condition the craft is in and it has not been able to communicate back with Earth.

Mission controllers said they were in the dark about the fate of the craft.

"We are not in a position yet to determine the dynamic condition at which the lander touched the ground," said Andrea Accomazzo, ESA's head of solar and planetary missions.

European Space Agency chiefs explained in a press conference that the probe's journey was always meant as a testing procedure.

The agency said that even though they can't get a signal from the surface, they recorded plenty of data during the descent that will help with future missions.

Schiaparelli with parachute deployed Credit: ESA

The ESA has been analysing the probe's landing overnight as it received data from the orbiting mothership.

Head of operations for ESA's solar system missions Andrea Accomazzo said in the press conference that nothing was heard from the lander during the final minute of its descent.

However, he said he couldn't say what condition the Schiaparelli probe was in when it finally hit the Red Planet.

Director of Human Spaceflight and Robotic Exploration at the ESA David Parker said: "Mars exploration is hard but that's why we do it."

The probe mission is a dress rehearsal which is testing out a landing system for future missions to the Red Planet - including the ExoMars Rover mission in 2020.

The Rover will drill into the soil of Mars and look for definitive signs of past or present life.