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NASA just discovered a missing Mars robot, last seen in 2003

A UK space robot has been found after 11 years
(https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-led-beagle-2-lander-found-on-mars ) of hanging out
—intact—on the Martian surface, while
the scientists who sent it thought it
was obliterated on impact.

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter snapped hi-
res photos of the UK Space Agency’s Mars probe
Beagle2 only five kilometers from its targeted
landing site. By landing-a-spacecraft-on-Mars
standards, that’s essentially a direct hit. The
probe was meant to land on Mars on Christmas
Day, 2003, but after inexplicably losing contact,
scientists theorized that the landing was botched
and it was destroyed.

The images reveal that while the probe actually
landed safely, it didn’t fully deploy—so we’ll likely
never be able to reestablish communication with
it or glean any information about its 11 years as a
Mars resident. But at least the original Beagle2
team members can sleep soundly at night knowing
that the probe made it to Mars okay, and was not
shattered in an unspeakable explosion.

Sadly, the head scientist on the project, Colin
Pillinger, died last May ( http://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/dec/21/colin-pillinger-remembered-monica-grady observer-obituaries-2014-open-university ) .

He also had a pivotal role on the Rosetta mission (http://qz.com/297352/these-close-up-photos-of-a-comet-from-the-rosetta-philae-mission-will-touch-your-soul/ ) , proposing the instrument on
the Philae lander that analyzed the soil on comet
67p. In November, the UK’s Royal Society
commemorated Pillinger ( https://royalsociety.org/news/2014/royal-society-announces-an-award-in-commemoration-of-professor-colin-pillinger/ ) by naming a new
award after him.

A few other Mars probes ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_missions_to_Mars ) have lost contact
while traveling through the Martian atmosphere or
on impact with its surface. The Beagle2 discovery
provides a glimmer of hope that these probes could
have made it to Mars safely, even if
communication will never be reestablished.
But even before the discovery, Beagle2—which was
supposed to search for signs of Martian life—was
seen as a useful adventure.

Here’s a video of its mission manager, Mark Sims, talking about the
project. “Beagle2 wasn’t a failure by any stretch of
the imagination,” he says. “It trained a whole
generation of engineers and scientists in Mars
exploration.”

Author : Adam Epstein

URL : http://qz.com/328145/nasa-just-discovered-a-missing-mars-robot-last-seen-in-2003/

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