They've Found it! Beagle 2 Lander Found on Mars after 12 Years
January 16th 2015
Well time makes fools of us all. It didn't return calls, we didn't see it around - it was as if it had disappeared off the face of the planet (well, it had technically...), but the UK led Beagle 2 lander, which touched down on Mars on Christmas Day 2003 and hadn't been seen or heard form since, has been found by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).
boo! you found me! (images courtesy of the Beagle 2 project)
The discovery goes some way to solving the long-standing mystery of what happened to the lander after contact was lost after it's descent to the surface of Mars. Images show the Beagle 2 lander in what appears to be a partially deployed configuration, with what is thought to be the rear cover with its pilot/drogue chute (still attached) and main parachute close by.
Due to the small size of Beagle 2 (less than 2m across for the deployed lander) it is right at the limit of detection of imaging systems (cameras) orbiting Mars. The targets are within the expected landing area at a distance of ~5km from its centre. Several interpretations of the image of the lander have been identified, consistent with the lander’s size and shape. The imaging data is however consistent with only a partial deployment following landing. This would explain why no signal or data was received from the lander – as full deployment of all solar panels was needed to expose the RF antenna which would transmit data and receive commands from Earth.
Proving the point that it's not only our cellphones here on earth that suffer from 'no signal' now and again.
NAFEMS published a fascinating article on the simulation technology challenges involved in the mission, courtesy of Tony Kent, then of MSC.Software, now with Sign-Up.to, which you can download here.
You can read the full statement on the long-awaited find at the UK Space Agency website