Back in 2003 a UK led project to land the Beagle2 probe on Mars ended in disappointment when radio contact was lost. Those involved in the project were convinced that it had been destroyed on impact or simply failed to trigger it's landing stage.
Now, after 12 years, new pictures have surfaced from Nasa's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter that may give light to the probes' fate.
From the images it can be deduced that Beagle2 did in fact land correctly and was not destroyed. It would appear from the images that the probe, in fact, failed to fully deploy, meaning that radio communication would not have been possible. Prof Mark Sims, Beagle2's mission manager from Leicester University explains further;
"Without full deployment, there is no way we could have communicated with it as the radio frequency antenna was under the solar panels. The failure cause is pure speculation, but it could have been, and probably was, down to sheer bad luck - a heavy bounce perhaps distorting the structure as clearances on solar panel deployment weren't big; or a punctured and slowly leaking airbag not separating sufficiently from the lander, causing a hang-up in deployment,"
This discovery will no doubt be a source of both joy and frustration for the team, who will now know just how close they came to achieving their goal.
Beagle2 cost approximately £50m which remains one of the cheapest inter-planetary missions to date, much of the work on the probe was in fact completed for free as people just wanted to be a part of the mission.
The below video was released by the Beagle2 team back in 2003 and show's how the mission was supposed to play out.
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