We’ve found lost Beagle!

British Mars scientist Colin Pillinger has found his crashed Beagle 2 spaceprobe, he said last night.
It is lying in a 20-yard wide crater in the very region it was expected to land.
Professor Pillinger believes it crashed into the wall of the crater as it was landing and bounced around inside it.
The crater is surrounded by smooth landscape and it was just bad luck that the £45million British probe hit it.
Pictures taken from a Nasa probe orbiting the Red Planet, Mars Global Surveyor, last year show the crater as a dark spot.
Mutton-chopped Professor Pillinger and his team at the Open University, Milton Keynes, called in professional imaging expert Guy Rennie to enhance the details of what lies inside it.
The results, shown above, appear to show the probe, its three airbags, still partially inflated, and signs of the collapsed parachutes.
There are also signs of where the probe bounced to its landing and dark patches of Martian soil freshly disturbed by the impact.
Professor Pillinger’s revelation comes exactly two years after he last saw his Beagle separating from its Mars Express mothership after a six-month flight from Earth.
It was due to land on Christmas Day 2003 but nothing further was heard from the craft.
Prof Pillinger said last night: “Looking for Beagle has been real needle-in-a-haystack stuff. But we needed to find it to know what happened and what parts of the engineering worked.
“The probe and its airbags are casting shadows and are in just the layout that we expected from our simulations.
“There is nothing like them in any other craters for miles around.
“This is the best candidate crater we’ve found for the landing site and we’ve got inside it something that looks just like what we expected to find.
“The evidence is very, very compelling.
“If Beagle hit the wall of the crater, it could have been damaged because it wasn’t designed to lansd like that. It could have flown off the side of the wall sideways.”
Previous theories suggested that Beagle might have descended too quickly because the air was unusually thin and hampered its parachutes.
But the Beagle 2 team now face the agonising fact that their mission would have succeeded if they had not hit the tiny crater.
Prof Pillinger said: “If this is what happened, we were unlucky. It is a bit like a game of snooker – and we went into the wrong pocket.”
Last month, the professor revealed that he wants to send TWO new Beagles into space by the end of the decade.

Paul Sutherland

Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.
Paul Sutherland

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Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.

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