Sensation: Recovery of Beagle 2 in 2015

The Beagle 2 was a British made spacecraft. The manufacturer of the spacecraft was the European Space Agency. It was expected to land on Martian surface on the 25th day of December 2003. Beagle 2 was operated by National Space Centre, in the United Kingdom. The Spacecraft properties are as follows:

  • payload mass of 9 kg
  • landing mass of 33.2 kg
  • dimension of 1.9 Meters diameter, when unfolded and 1 Meter when folded

Photo By Gavin Stewart (Beagle 2 at the Space Centre – Leicester) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

The spacecraft launch site was Baikonur Cosmodrome. The Beagle 2 was the brainchild of a group of United Kingdom academics led by Professor Colin Pillinger from the Open University in partnership with the University of Leicester.

The name Beagle 2 is derived from the name of a ship used by Charles Darwin. The ship’s name was HMS Beagles. Charles Darwin used the ship in the 1830s to travel the world. His journeys led to the realization about life on earth.

The disappearance of Beagle 2 in Mars

The purpose of launching Beagle 2 to Mars was to look for any signs of past or present life on Mars. The Beagle 2 had the ability to gather soil samples and examine them for indications of organic molecules linked with life on the onboard laboratory. After the spacecraft had landed on Mars on 25th of December 2003, no signal was received on Earth. A pursuit for the missing Beagle 2 began. The probe was assumed lost for more than ten years. This was frustrating for the team that was concerned with sending Beagle 2 to Mars. However, the search for the missing Beagle 2 did not stop as the team was hopeful of finding a signal. In 2003, efforts to get signals from Beagle 2 using Mars Express failed. After that, in February the Beagle 2 Management Board declared the spacecraft lost. An inquiry to look into the failure of Beagle 2 began.

At last Beagle 2 is found!

In 2015, there were confirmed reports that Beagle 2 had been located intact on Mars surface. NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter found the Beagle 2. The location of the spacecraft was on the surface of Isidis Planitia. The images of Hi-RISE camera from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter showed:

  • A bright shape resembling the lander and some of its panels are deployed.
  • The images were not clear enough to show how many Panels of Beagle 2 unfolded.
  • Images that illustrated what could have been the rear cover and parachute. They seem to have been properly abandoned during its descent.
  • The images suggested that Beagle 2 did not crash on Mars surface as a result of the failure of descent and landing system. The Beagle 2 images show it on the surface of Mars but only deployed itself partly.
  • The first indication of the recovery of Beagle 2 came when on the location that the spacecraft was intended to land, scientists saw an object sparkling on Mars surface.

It is still a mystery why the spacecraft lost contact. Most people speculate that the reasons why the Beagle 2 was unable to send signals back to earth were obstruction of the panels by an airbag, mechanical damage during landing. The team was blissful that Beagle 2 was intact when it landed. The team has also learned a lot from the Beagle 2 mission.

Posted on May 10, 2017, 7:12 pm By
Categories: History