A British-built space probe that had been lost since 2003 on Mars has been found, the UK Space Agency said, in a statement, Friday. The craft was supposed to land on Mars and deploy instruments on the planet to search for life there.
The craft, which resembled a large pocket watch, had travelled to Mars with the European Space Agency’s Mars Express craft. It lost contact soon after it made a partial landing on the planet, meaning that its communication equipment did not fully deploy as planned. So far, scientists had continued to search for the craft with images taken by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the Huffington Post reported. Since its discovery, the craft has technically become the first European probe to successfully land on another planet.
“The history of space exploration is marked by both success and failure. This finding makes the case that Beagle 2 was more of a success than we previously knew and undoubtedly an important step in Europe’s continuing exploration of Mars,” David Parker, the UK Space Agency chief executive, said, according to The Guardian, adding: “What we can say with some confidence today is that Beagle 2 is no longer lost and furthermore it seems we are not looking at a crash site.”
The craft was thought to have been destroyed but officials said that the Beagle 2 was only partially deployed because of which contact was lost with the craft. Officials also said, in the statement, that due to the partial landing, "it would not be possible to revive Beagle 2 and recover data from it."
Professor Mark Sims, Beagle 2 Mission Manager and the leader of the flight operations team, said in the statement: “I am delighted that Beagle 2 has finally been found on Mars. Every Christmas Day since 2003 I have wondered what happened to Beagle 2. My Christmas day in 2003 alongside many others who worked on Beagle 2 was ruined by the disappointment of not receiving data from the surface of Mars.
“To be frank I had all but given up hope of ever knowing what happened to Beagle 2. The images show that we came so close to achieving the goal of science on Mars.”