The tiny Beagle 2 that went missing almost a decade on the surface of Mars has been finally found. Photos from orbit reveals that the device landed exactly where it was targeted, but the solar panels failed to properly open, which resisted its detection and led to mystery.
Recently, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter of NASA spotted the little device and beamed high resolution images that reveal Beagle 2 landed on the targeted touchdown zone and it is still intact even after more than a decade.
In 2003’s Christmas Day, the Mars Express orbiter carried the device to the red planet and plunged it into the atmosphere. However, the device went missing after that. Beagle 2 was developed by a team of European Space Agency in the UK.
The estimated cost for sending this device to Mars was £50m. The experts said that the solar panels of Beagle 2 did not fully opened and that is probably the reason of blocking the antenna receiving and transmitting its radio signal, which resulted in no communication. This also means that there is no way to recover or utilize this bucket lid sized device further.
The device was sent on the red planet with the intention of collecting and analyzing soil and rocks and to check if there are signs of life. Colin Pillinger, a scientist from Britain, headed the project. He also engaged a rock band for writing a song signaling the successful landing of the device. However, Pillinger died last May and the song is still not released publicly.
The high-resolution camera images of MRO spotted two Viking landers that touched the surface of Mars in the 70s. It also captured pictures of other probes working on the planet such as Opportunity, Curiosity and Phoenix rovers. ESA is planning to return to Mars with ExoMars rover in 2019 and Beagle 2’s failure would be a good lesson.
However, this period is quite busy in space. Rosetta spacecraft of ESA completed its successful ten year journey by depositing Philae lander in a comet, Pluto bound New Horizons by NASA woke up from 1873 days of sleep and the Orion spacecraft was also lifted recently.