The Beagle 2 was Europe’s first try to land on Mars. Operated by the European Space Agency, the spacecraft was named after Charles Darwin’s ship (HMS Beagles). The primary purpose of the Beagle 2 mission was to research and analyze the possibility of past and present life on Mars. The idea of the probe was mooted by Professor Colin Pillinger of the Open University, Milton. It was launched in 2003. It was expected to have reached the surface of Mars and send back data on 25th December 2003. However, Beagle 2 did not send any data, and it was presumed lost for over a decade. In 2015, through NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Beagle 2 was discovered on the surface of Mars.
The recovery and decision to use reflection analysis
Sadly, Beagle’s 2 discovery in 2015 came just one year after the death of the mission’s lead scientist: Professor Colin Pillinger. The discovery suggested that the spacecraft landed on Mars’ surface. This landing by itself is a great relief to the European Space Agency who initially thought that the mission had utterly failed. To find out what happened to Beagle 2, a study was carried out. This study was undertaken jointly by the University of Leicester together with the De Montfort University. Professor Sims from the University of Leicester and former manager of Beagle 2 suggested the use of reflection analysis.
The analysis involved the researchers using a 3D modeling to assist them to find the best match with satellite images. They managed to find a match by imitating sunlight configurations and angles. The analysis made of the Beagles 2 spacecraft images indicated that it did not crash-land on the surface of Mars.
The reflection analysis on Beagle 2
In 2016, reflection analysis was carried out regarding the spacecraft Beagle 2. The analysis was done by researchers from the University of Leicester in partnership with De Montfort University. It was the researchers hope that these results would aid in understanding what happened to the probe Beagle 2. The following are the findings of the analysis carried out by the researchers:
- The spacecraft could have worked for a while, but it was unable to send information to Earth.
- Beagle 2 landed safely, and three of its four solar panels opened well.
- It is likely that blockage of the solar panels by an airbag affected the transmission of data to Earth.
- It also revealed that the spacecraft landed on Martian surface. This landing, therefore, demonstrated that its design was excellent.
- The spacecraft only failed in the transmission of data.
- It could be said that the heavy landing may have damaged the internal electric system.
After going through the analysis, Nick Higget remarked that we would find out what happened to Beagle 2 by sending an astronaut to Mars. On his part, Professor Sims said that they were happy that Beagle 2 did not crash, but rather landed on the surface of Mars. Currently, the design of Beagle 2 is being used to make other spacecraft like Beagle to the moon and Beagle 2007. Clearly, the European Space Agency has drawn a lot of lessons from the mission of Beagle 2.