The European Space Agency's Beagle-2 lander, which had been lost on Mars since 2003, has been found, the agency said Friday.
The European Space Agency’s Beagle-2 lander, which had been lost on Mars since 2003, has been found, the agency said Friday.
New photos taken by the high-resolution camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show the lander partially deployed on the surface of the Red Planet, it said.
Rudolf Schmidt, ESA’s Mars Express project manager at the time, called the finding “excellent news.” He said that not knowing what happened to Beagle-2 had “remained a nagging worry.”
Beagle-2 has not been heard of since it separated from its mother ship, but ESA said the images prove the entry, descent and landing sequence did work and that it successfully landed on Mars on Christmas Day in 2003.
Most Read Nation & World Stories
- Hacker known as Max is 55-year-old woman from Russia, U.S. says
- Many post-COVID patients are experiencing new medical problems, study finds
- A high school marked unvaccinated students at prom with Sharpie. Parents called it Nazi Germany, Republican says.
- Sports on TV & radio: Local listings for Seattle games and events
- Va. couple first to plead guilty to misdemeanors only in Capitol riot, but will they get prison time?
UK Space Agency chief executive David Parker said the discovery of the craft showed its complex landing procedures had worked.
“This finding makes the case that Beagle-2 was more of a success than we previously knew and undoubtedly an important step in Europe’s continuing exploration of Mars,” he said.
Parker told a London news conference that there are no indications the lander crashed.
“These images are consistent with the Beagle-2 having successfully landed on Mars but then only partially deploying itself,” he said.
The British-built Beagle-2 was launched on ESA’s Mars Express orbiter and was supposed to look for signs of alien life.
It was released from its mother ship on Dec. 19, 2003, and was supposed to land six days later, but no communications with the lander were ever established.
Professor Mark Sims of the University of Leicester, who worked on the project, said the new information shows the team came extremely close to its goal of getting data from Mars, with the deployment failing only in its final stage.
“To be frank, I had all but given up hope of ever knowing what happened to Beagle-2,” he said.
After the project failed, two U.S. spacecraft landed on Mars and sent back many pictures and extensive scientific data.
David Rising in Berlin contributed.