The UK's Beagle 2 mission to the Red Planet in 2003 ended in disaster, but a new discovery about it has scientists talking.
The British tried to get a spacecraft to Mars in 2003 and ultimately failed to do so with Beagle 2, but a new study claims that they came astonishingly close to pulling it off. That’s based on a new analysis of pictures of the Beagle 2 spacecraft that shows it didn’t actually crash into the surface of Mars, and three of its four solar panels actually opened.
The probe may have even worked properly for several months, but it wasn’t able to send any data back to Earth. In fact, there’s even a chance that Beagle 2 is still working on the surface of Mars, albeit a very small chance, according to a University of Leicester statement.
If Beagle 2 was able to go into surface operations mode, and depending on how much sand was deposited on the solar panels, it may have worked for hundreds of days conducting pre-programmed operations and collecting data.
“We are delighted to say that we have gone way beyond the original plan to reach this exciting conclusion that Beagle 2 did not crash, but landed and probably deployed most of its panels. Hopefully these results help to solve a long held mystery and will benefit any future missions to Mars,” said Nick Higgett, De Montfort University, in the statement.
“This unique University collaboration between space scientists and digital designers allowed the reflection analysis concept to be put into practice and tested and ultimately produce these exciting results,” added Professor Mark Sims, University of Leicester.
Sims continued: “Although the concept of the “reflection analysis” was mine I didn’t know it would work. Thanks to the effort of the team at De Montfort University they proved that this concept could work and we have gathered more information on the failure of Beagle 2 to communicate and we are one step closer to knowing what happened. In reality we may of course never know exactly what caused its failure to communicate after what has been confirmed as a successful landing, which was a fantastic achievement by the Beagle 2 team. The work shows frustratingly that Beagle 2 came so close to working as intended on Mars.”