Thu, Dec 22, 2005
Evidence May Show Errant Lander Nearly Succeeded
The scientist behind Britain's Beagle II mission to Mars
said earlier this week images beamed back by NASA's Mars Global
Surveyor show the craft may have managed to land on the Red Planet
The images -- which show a large patch on the north crater wall
believed to be the primary impact site, as well as marks on the
surface that may have come from the probe's cushioning airbags --
tell Colin Pillinger that Beagle II may have very nearly
succeeded in its mission to beam back images from Mars in December
As was reported in Aero-News,
the probe -- which had been ferried to Mars aboard the European
Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter -- lost contact with Earth
shortly after it undocked from its mothership.
"There are then other features around the crater consistent with
the airbags bouncing around and finally falling down into the
middle," Pillinger told Reuters. "Then, when you cut the lace, the
airbags fall apart giving three very symmetrical triangles."
Four roughly circular features to the right of the 'airbag'
markings could be Beagle's unfolded solar panels, he added.
The discovery gives some vindication to Pillinger, who was stung
by a British government report on the mission that said, in part,
the Beagle II project failed because it was so underfunded that it
was little more than an "amateurish gentleman's
The probe likely impacted the Martian surface at a higher rate
than intended, said Pillinger, due to improper calculations of the
density of the Martian atmosphere.
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