‘We are delighted to say that we have gone way beyond the original plan to reach this exciting conclusion that Beagle 2 did not crash, but landed and probably deployed most of its panels. Hopefully these results help to solve a long held mystery and will benefit any future missions to Mars.’- Nick Higgett, De Montfort University
‘This unique University collaboration between space scientists and digital designers allowed the reflection analysis concept to be put into practice and tested and ultimately produce these exciting results,’ Professor Mark Sims, University of Leicester
Study finds Mars lander deployed at least three or all four of its solar panels
Beagle 2 was the small lander developed for the European Space Agency’s Mars Express Mission by the Beagle 2 consortium which was led from the Open University headed by the late Professor Colin Pillinger. It was due to land on Mars on 25/12/03. It was ejected successfully from the ESA’s orbiter spacecraft Mars Express but following the attempted landing, nothing has been heard from it since and the mission was presumed lost. (www.beagle2.com). However in January 2015, it was announced that satellite images from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter instrument HiRISE indicated as successful landing by the probe.
The aim of this project was to experiment with using 3D modelling and imaging software to recreate the UK Mars spacecraft Beagle 2 in a range of landing configurations to determine whether the current Mars satellite imagery can be simulated and thus confirm the images are actually of Beagle 2 and determine its surface configuration.
After lots of experimentation a particular landing configuration has been identified (3 out of 4 solar panels open) which seems to match the satellite data for a variety of incident sun angles. The landing configuration which best matched the satellite images indicates that 1 solar panel did (for some unknown reason) fail to open. This meant the communications antenna to Earth was unable to work. The spacecraft therefore was never able to be commanded or communicate its status.
The work confirms Beagle 2 landed successfully and deployed at least 3 of its 4 solar panels..
This project was a collaboration between De Montfort University’s Digital Design Research Group and the University of Leicester’s Space Research Centre and Dr Jim Clemmet (former Beagle 2 Chief Engineer) on behalf of the Beagle 2 Consortium.