Space fans are being challenged to beat the professionals and find the lost Beagle 2 Mars probe. Yesterday, as I exclusively forecast, Nasa released the first close-up photographs of the region where Britain’s craft should have landed.
But there are no obvious signs inside the crater, which was caused by a meteor impact, of any debris from Beagle 2, such as a parachute or airbags.
You can compare the new detailed imaged with the lower resolution picture from Mars Global Surveyor which was enhanced by Professor Pillinger’s team.
Other photos of the region just released from the powerful space camera aboard Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show that hunting the spaceprobe will be like looking for a needle in a haystack.
Now the Planetary Society, based in the US, is calling on enthusiasts to download the HiRise images and scour them for any signs of the probe, its heatshield, backshell or chute. They have put images on their website of how these parts of Beagle 2 might look on the photos from Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
Nasa’s HiRise images are huge to download, with one more than 800 MB in size. But the society’s blogger Emily Lakdawalla says: “I invite everyone with the patience to download these images and have a look around to see what you can find. There will likely be more images in Isidis Planitia from time to time, and who knows? One of them may contain the missing spacecraft.”
She adds: “It’s been three years since the landing, time enough for some transient markings of a crash to have been blown away. It will be especially hard to find if the parachute never deployed.
“Not only would the parachute be the easiest piece of Beagle 2’s hardware to spot, but if it didn’t deploy then it wouldn’t have slowed Beagle 2’s descent, so the spacecraft could have landed considerably downrange of where people are looking for it.”
Nothing has been heard from Beagle 2 since it separated from its mothership, Mars Express, for a landing on Christmas Day 2003.
Photo: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona
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