Beagle retrospective

The UK-led Beagle-2 Mars lander, which hitched a ride on ESA’s Mars Express mission and was lost on Mars since 2003, has been found in images taken by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. This close-up image has been sharpened to show possible details of the Beagle-2 lander on the surface of Mars.Credit: HiRISE/NASA/JPL/Parker/Leicester

The UK-led Beagle-2 Mars lander, which hitched a ride on ESA’s Mars Express mission and was lost on Mars since 2003, has been found in images taken by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. This close-up image has been sharpened to show possible details of the Beagle-2 lander on the surface of Mars.Credit: HiRISE/NASA/JPL/Parker/Leicester

The big news today is the discovery, courtesy of NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), of the UK-led Beagle 2 lander on the surface of Mars.

Beagle 2 was meant to parachute to the surface of Mars in December 2003, but after separation, the small craft was never heard from again.

In 2014, remains of Beagle 2 were spotted by the HiRise camera on board MRO; the images and full details are here.

We thought you might enjoy seeing some archive pics of Beagle, so we gathered a selection of images showing the craft on Earth, during launch and its last-ever view seen from Mars Express from space (by the VMC camera), just after separation on 19 Dec 2003.

And, today’s YouTube video via University of Leicester

The UK-led Beagle 2 was due to land on Mars on 25 December 2003. The spacecraft was ejected from Mars Express on 19 December 2003. Nothing had been heard from Beagle 2 and the mission was presumed lost. Until now.

It has now been announced that the Mars Lander has been identified partially deployed on the surface of Mars by images taken by the HiRISE camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). These images show potential targets on the surface of Mars for the lander and key entry and descent components within the expected landing area.

Following analysis by members of the Beagle 2 team, which includes Leicester scientists, and NASA, the images show the Beagle 2 lander in what appears to be a partially deployed configuration with the main parachute and what is thought to be the rear cover close by.

Several interpretations of the image of the lander have been identified, consistent with the lander’s size and shape and changes in light reflections suggest that the object is metallic – again consistent with Beagle 2.

7 thoughts on “Beagle retrospective

  1. Pingback: Mars Express blog: Beagle retrospective - Technology Org

  2. About the slideshow, I think the 5th photo (“Beagle seen during integration”) doesn’t have the correct orientation…
    Apparently, it needs a 90º clockwise rotation.
    Btw, congratulations on the Beagle 2’s “discovery”! 🙂
    Best regards from Portugal.

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  4. So it made it safely to Mars after all! Cruel destiny that Colin Pillinger didn’t see these results and get closure to the efforts. If only the Beagle2 could have been verified found a year earlier.

    Still, my overall feeling is happiness that Beagle2 was found in Mars. I can only imagine what it means to the people really involved in the project. I hope they can feel proudness and happiness too! 🙂

  5. What a wonderful article, beautifully written, wonderful archive as well as new imagery, one of the best articles I’ve seen so far on the finding of Beagle 2 on the martian surface.

    I hope I can post the link to this article onto the NASA site. The MRO HiRISE site also has a beautiful article too.

    Certainly looks like Beagle 2 very nearly succeeded, a folding panel or two too far . Wonder if vibration during launch from Earth shook something loose?

    This shows the design was viable, perhaps a Beagle 3 could be built using the same blueprints, but perhaps this time with slightly greater redundancy. Looks like an interesting landing site too, perhaps send a potential Beagle 3 to the same landing ellipse.

    Andrew R Brown.

  6. I’ve tried looking this up but is there any chance of Beagle 2 actually still being functional? Most seem to believe that it has frozen to death, but I don’t understand why that is so given. The images from HiRISE indicates that the lander at least succeeded with a partial deployment, so presumably it would get some electrical power from its solar panels. It follows, depending on the exact details on Beagle 2, that it might be humming along still to this day with the solar panels providing the needed power for the heaters to keep it warm. It’s a long shot either way, we are way past even what the extended mission timeline of Beagle 2 would have been and without any way of communicating with the lander it’s only an academic question, but still, I’m curious.

    Anyone willing to explain if I’m wrong and why there is no chance of it still being alive?

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