Image Credit: European Space Agency
As rumored earlier this week, researchers using images gathered by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have located the Beagle 2 lander, which has been missing since it arrived on Christmas Day 2003.
From the JPL story:
“A set of three observations with the orbiter’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera shows Beagle 2 partially deployed on the surface of the planet, ending the mystery of what happened to the mission more than a decade ago. They show that the lander survived its Dec. 25, 2003, touchdown enough to at least partially deploy its solar arrays.
Beagle 2 hitched a ride to Mars on the European Space Agency’s long-lived Mars Express mission. It was a collaboration between industry and academia designed to deliver world-class science from the surface of the Red Planet.
“I am delighted that Beagle 2 has finally been found on Mars,” said Mark Sims of the University of Leicester, U.K. He was an integral part of the Beagle 2 project from the start, leading the initial study phase and was Beagle 2 mission manager. “Every Christmas Day since 2003 I have wondered what happened to Beagle 2. My Christmas Day in 2003 alongside many others who worked on Beagle 2 was ruined by the disappointment of not receiving data from the surface of Mars. To be frank I had all but given up hope of ever knowing what happened to Beagle 2. The images show that we came so close to achieving the goal of science on Mars.”
As the video explains, the images suggest at least one of the Beagle’s solar panels deployed, although it is difficult to tell because the lander’s size puts it at the limit of MRO’s HiRISE camera resolution. While a higher resolution camera might confirm whether or not the U.K. actually scored a Mars landing only to suffer a very untimely equipment failure, or simply hit too hard in the first place, the only way to get real closure is to go see for ourselves. A tongue in cheek suggestion, it does underscore one of the rationales which launched many expeditions during the age of exploration; to find out what happened to the previous expedition!
NASA depiction of Beagle 2 had it been a better day
The complete story is here.