The Beagle 2 Mars lander has been found. Several observations made by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) shows the lander is intact on the surface of Mars.
The UK-built lander was believed to have been lost when it landed on the red planet on Christmas day in 2003.
“I am delighted that Beagle 2 has finally been found on Mars,” said Mark Sims of the University of Leicester, U.K. Sims was the mission manager for the Beagle 2.
“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,” said Sims.
NASA’s MRO saw that Beagle 2 did partially deploy when it landed more than 11 years ago.
NASA along with the Beagle 2 team and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory poured over images and data to verify it was Beagle 2 they were seeing in the images.
Tim Parker, a planetary geologist at JPL, helped with the analysis and is “convinced that these are Beagle 2 hardware.”
Here’s a video from JPL showing the images of what looks like the Beagle 2 lander.
Beagle 2 Trivia
The lander was designed by the UK and was part of the European Space Agency’s 2003 Mars Express Mission.
Beagle 2 gets its name from the HMS Beagle – a ship carrying Charles Darwin during his expeditions. The observations made by Darwin during these expeditions would lead to the theory of natural selection.
The Beagle 2’s mission was to search out signs of life on Mars. It was equipped with stereo cameras, a microscope, a Mossbauer spectrometer, X-ray spectrometer and a drill.
The Beagle 2 reached Mars on December 25th, 2003. Confirmation of the lander’s survival was never received, though. Scientists would try unsuccessfully to get a signal from the Beagle 2 until February 6th, 2004 – when they declared the lander lost.