How They Found the Lost European Probe on Mars for More Than A Decade

He was a citizen on foot, who had been a fellow in the European Space Agency, who found the 'Beagle 2'.

On Christmas Day of the year 2003, workers of the Operations Center of the European Space Agency (ESA), in Darmstadt, Germany, waited expectantly for a radio broadcast. It was to be the first musical work to be broadcast from Mars: an ethereal piece of nine notes composed by the British group Blur to announce the landing of the Beagle 2 probe on our neighboring planet. Today, we know that Blur probably played on Mars 14 years ago, but the music never came to Earth.

An image was taken that early morning that showed how the small descent module was ejected from the Mars Express spacecraft in which it was traveling to penetrate the Martian atmosphere. In the weeks following Christmas, ESA tried to establish communication with Beagle 2 by all possible means but finally declared the mission failed in February 2004.

For more than a decade, scientists considered the Beagle 2 lost. However, three years ago, the world knew that the probe had survived the landing. The team that found it has published in the Royal Society Open Science journal an article that describes all their efforts. To this day, Beagle 2 is still parked in the plain of Isidis Planitia on the surface of Mars, unable to communicate with anyone.

The device has the shape of a giant pocket watch measured approximately one meter in diameter. When opened, it would unfold like metallic petals, four solar panels and an articulated arm with its scientific instruments, which researchers from the British Open University chose to look for signs of life on Mars. The ties of the Beagle 2 with the life sciences were in its credentials. It was baptized the successor of another British ship, the HMS Beagle because it carried Charles Darwin when he developed his theory of evolution.

Upon penetrating the atmosphere of Mars, Beagle 2 activated the two descent parachutes. It also activated the airbags that surrounded it completely, like segments of a tangerine, when it hit the ground. It bounced several times before it reached, then dropped to the ground and opened its lid. Unfortunately, the antenna that would have allowed the probe to retransmit its cosmic song home was obstructed by one of the solar panels, which did not fully deploy, and for this reason, Beagle 2 could never send scientific information.