[meteorite-list] 'Lost' Beagle 2 Mars Lander Found by Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Fri, 16 Jan 2015 09:46:51 -0800 (PST)
Message-ID: <201501161746.t0GHkpEH006171_at_zagami.jpl.nasa.gov>


'Lost' 2003 Mars Lander Found by Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
January 16, 2015

This annotated image shows where features seen in an observation by NASA's
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have been interpreted as hardware from the
Dec. 25, 2003, arrival at Mars of the United Kingdom's Beagle 2 Lander.
The image was taken in 2014 by the orbiter's HiRISE camera.

The Beagle 2 Mars Lander, built by the United Kingdom, has been thought
lost on Mars since 2003, but has now been found in images from NASA's
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

A set of three observations with the orbiter's High Resolution Imaging
Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera shows Beagle 2 partially deployed on
the surface of the planet, ending the mystery of what happened to the
mission more than a decade ago. They show that the lander survived its
Dec. 25, 2003, touchdown enough to at least partially deploy its solar

Beagle 2 hitched a ride to Mars on the European Space Agency's long-lived
Mars Express mission. It was a collaboration between industry and academia
designed to deliver world-class science from the surface of the Red Planet.

"I am delighted that Beagle 2 has finally been found on Mars," said Mark
Sims of the University of Leicester, U.K. He was an integral part of the
Beagle 2 project from the start, leading the initial study phase and was
Beagle 2 mission manager. "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.

HiRISE images initially searched by Michael Croon of Trier, Germany, a
former member of the European Space Agency's Mars Express operations team,
provide evidence for the lander and key descent components on the surface
of Mars within the expected landing area of Isidis Planitia, an impact
basin close to the equator.

Subsequent re-imaging and analysis by the Beagle 2 team, the HiRISE team
and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, have confirmed
that the targets discovered are of the correct size, shape, color and
dispersion to be Beagle 2. JPL planetary geologist Tim Parker, who has
assisted in the search and processed some of the images said, "I've been
looking over the objects in the images carefully, and I'm convinced that
these are Beagle 2 hardware."

Analysis of the images indicates what appears to be a partially deployed
configuration, with what is thought to be the rear cover with its pilot/drogue
chute (still attached) and main parachute close by. Due to the small size
of Beagle 2 (less than 7 feet, or 2 meters across for the deployed lander)
it is right at the limit of detection of HiRISE, the highest-resolution
camera orbiting Mars. The targets are within the expected landing area
at a distance of about three miles (five kilometers) from its center.

"I can imagine the sense of closure that the Beagle 2 team must feel,"
said Richard Zurek of JPL, project scientist now for Mars Reconnaissance
Orbiter (MRO) and previously for NASA's still-missing 1998 Mars Polar
Lander. "MRO has helped find safe landing sites on Mars for the Curiosity
and Phoenix missions and has searched for missing craft to learn what
may have gone wrong. It's an extremely difficult task, as the craft are
small and the search areas are vast. It takes the best camera we have
in Mars orbit and work by dedicated individuals to be successful at this."

HiRISE is operated by the University of Arizona, Tucson. The instrument
was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. of Boulder, Colorado.
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project is managed for NASA's Science
Mission Directorate in Washington, by JPL, a division of the California
Institute of Technology, Pasadena.

For more information about HiRISE, visit:


Additional information about MRO is online at:


Media Contact

Guy Webster
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California
guy.webster at jpl.nasa.gov
Received on Fri 16 Jan 2015 12:46:51 PM PST

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