Mars Lander Beagle 2 Mystery Solved: Did It Really Crash?
As reported by Space.com, the Beagle 2, which was built by the British was expected to land on Mars on December 25, 2003. However, during the day, no signal was received from Beagle 2, leading the experts to think that the spacecraft crashed and failed its mission. Since then, the spacecraft has never been found again, until in 2015 when it was announced that Nasa's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) spotted and photographed the "ill-fated spacecraft."
Analysis of the photos through 3D modeling technology which was conducted by scientists in Leicester and De Montfort University, revealed that the Beagle 2 did not crash on the Martian surface and the landing went as planned. Professor Mark Sims of Leicester, former Mission Manager of Beagle 2, initiated the investigation.
In addition, it was also found out that the Beagle 2 successfully deployed at least three or all four of its solar panels. It was previously thought that perhaps only two had deployed.
"This has been an exciting collaboration with the University of Leicester's Space Research Centre. The De Montfort team were responsible for all the 3D simulation work to test the reflection analysis concept. In order to do this, our visualisation specialist Teodora Kuzmanova had to create a physically accurate 3D model of the Beagle 2 Mars Lander with surfaces that would accurately reflect virtual sunlight," said Nick Higgett leader of the De Montfort University Simulation team said in a press release.
"The angle of the sun had to be simulated along with position of a virtual camera that could take pictures equivalent to NASA's Reconnaissance Orbiter. Finally these images had to be pixelated to match the resolution of the Orbiter's images," he added.
The analysis also suggests that the Beagle 2 functioned for few months and was able to take lots of scientific data but was unable to send it back because the fourth solar panel may have shielded the radio antenna or the internal electrical systems were damaged by a heavy landing, BBC reported.