Lost Mars probe found by NASA orbiter

A Mars robot, Beagle2, which lost radio contact while trying to make a soft touchdown on the red planet in 2003, has been found with the help of NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, a media report said Friday.

The probe appeared to be in one piece in the high-resolution images taken from the planet’s orbit, belying assumptions made by the scientists that it had been destroyed in a high velocity impact, BBC reported.

Beagle’s design incorporated a series of deployable “petals”, on which were mounted its solar panels.

From the images, it seems that this system did not unfurl fully, the report added.

“Without full deployment, there is no way we could have communicated with it as the radio frequency antenna was under the solar panels,” said Mark Sims, Beagle’s mission manager from Leicester University.

“The failure cause is pure speculation, but it could have been, and probably was, down to sheer bad luck — a heavy bounce perhaps distorting the structure as clearances on solar panel deployment weren’t big; or a punctured and slowly leaking airbag not separating sufficiently from the lander, causing a hang-up in deployment,” Sims said.

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