The broken-down Mars lander Beagle 2 came “excruciatingly close” to success scientists say, after new research has revealed that it managed to unfurl at least three of its four solar panels before giving up the ghost.
“It turns out we didn’t make that many mistakes,” said former Beagle 2 mission manager Mark Sims, currently professor of astrobiology and space science at the University of Leicester.
Launched in 2003, the bicycle wheel-sized lander was designed to analyse the soil and atmosphere of Mars for signs of life. But Beagle 2 failed to make contact after it was deployed, and was feared to have crashed.
But more than a decade later, images from the HiRise camera on Nasa’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter revealed that the lander had touched down on the red planet intact.
While the HiRise images suggested that the lander had at least partially deployed its solar panels, questions remained. “You still can’t resolve in any detail any of the elements of Beagle 2,” said Sims adding that the appearance of the lander was compatible with as few as two of the solar panels being deployed.
Further processing of the images earlier this year depicted the lander in greater detail, but it still resembled little more than a Y-shaped blob.
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SOURCE: The Guardian, Nicola Davis