After 12 years, Beagle 2 lander may have been found on Martian surface

13 Jan 2015

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An illustration of the Beagle 2 lander. Image via NASA

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The ill-fated Beagle 2 lander sent to Mars in 2003 was believed to have been lost forever on the surface of the red planet, but new images of the planet’s surface may reveal its final resting place.

Having been expected to touch down on Mars on Christmas Day 2003, the Beagle 2 lander was intended to be an enormous achievement for space travel on a budget, but despite the best efforts of planet scientist Colin Pillinger and his team from the UK, the lander’s pre-programmed successful landing tune written by the band Blur was never heard by those back on Earth.

Due to be the second lander to successfully reach the surface of Mars unscathed after the landing of Opportunity earlier that year, Beagle 2’s mission was to search the planet for signs of  life in the Martian soil.

Now, according to The Guardian, US space agency NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) with its High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera may have discovered the craft after a 12-year absence.

While the exact details have not been revealed, a press conference has been called by the HiRISE team for this Friday, where they are expected of announce an ‘update’ on the failed mission.

The HiRISE camera has been busy collecting vast amounts of information and mapping the planet’s surface and would be the only satellite capable of being able to see rock formations on Mars as small as a few metres across.

Speaking of what the rediscovery of Beagle 2 means to science, Ian Crawford, a planetary scientist at the University of London said it’s fate, while not directly important for science, it’s important for future missions to Mars.

“People would like to know what happened to it. Knowing where it crashed, if it did crash, could be useful for people trying to work out what went wrong. If it landed more or less where it was supposed to land, then that at least gives you some confidence that the entry worked,” he said.

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Colm Gorey is a journalist with Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com