Lost Lander Found on Mars

Categories: Mars Missions News Brief

Colour image of Beagle-2 on Mars. Credit: ESA

Colour image of Beagle-2 on Mars. Credit: ESA

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has spotted the European Beagle-2 on Mars, 12 years after the lander lost contact during its descent to the red planet.

If Beagle 2 had landed on Mars successfully, could it have discovered life? Credit: All Rights Reserved Beagle 2, www.beagle2.com

If Beagle 2 had landed on Mars successfully, could it have discovered life? Credit: All Rights Reserved Beagle 2, www.beagle2.com

Beagle-2 hitched a ride to Mars onboard the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Mars Express mission in 2003. The stationary lander was small, just 30 kg, but carried a sophisticated chemical laboratory. It was designed as Europe’s first life-hunting mission to Mars.

When Beagle-2 touched down on the surface of Mars, it was meant to send back a faint 5-watt signal… but that signal never came. For months after the landing, scientists on Earth hunted for Beagle-2 with images from ESA’s Mars Express orbiter and NASA’s Mars Odyssey mission. However, Beagle-2 was nowhere to be found.
For a recap of the events in 2003, here are some stories from the astrobio.net archives, including an interview with Beagle-2 scientist Colin Pillinger.

Beagle Hunt for Mars

More than a decade later, tiny Beagle-2 has been spotted on Mars using the high-resolution camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The lander appears to be partially deployed, proving that Beagle-2 made a successful entry, descent and landing. Now the question is “What went wrong?”

Beagle 2 : Europe’s Mars Lander. Credit: ESA