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Beagle 2 Mars Probe Might Still be Alive, Hold Clues to Life on Mars

ExoMars rover prototype 3
The Beagle 2 may have disappeared for 11 years, but it was never forgotten. The same technology is used as the foundation for the ExoMars Rover headed for Mars in 2018.(Photo : Mike Peel)
For 11 years, no one knew what happened to the Beagle 2.
Was it destroyed? Did it actually get to Mars? Where is it? These questions persisted, most especially for the scientists behind the Mars probe. Even after it was officially declared lost, there was no closure.

All that is going to change now that the Beagle 2 has been found, according to the European Space Agency (ESA).
It's all thanks to NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. As the orbiter was making its rounds on the Red Planet, its high-resolution camera captured some images of what could be the Beagle 2.
Experts carefully analyzed the photographs and, taking into consideration other factors like the intended landing site of the Mars probe, concluded it really was the Beagle 2.
Identifying the probe was not easy because it was small, spreading just a little over six feet wide even when its solar panels are unfurled.
Unfortunately, these solar panels didn't unfurl completely, hindering the Beagle 2's radio antenna from deploying and transmitting its location back to Earth after landing. The radio antenna was placed underneath the solar panels; it would only work once all the solar panels were opened.
Despite the fact that the solar panels didn't unfurl completely, the Beagle 2 seems to have taken readings. Just because it wasn't able to radio back data doesn't mean it doesn't have all the information stored.
This is at least what scientists are hoping for. To take advantage of all that data, the Beagle 2 would have to be retrieved, and that's a big undertaking.
For now, the ESA is focusing on the ExoMars Rover mission launching in 2018. As a throwback to the probe that started it all, the Beagle 2 was used as inspiration for the technology on the rover, tweaked and improved from the original design of the probe.
When the ExoMars rover gets to the Red Planet in 2019, it will drill close to seven feet below the soil to explore the mineralogy and geochemistry of Mars in search of potential proof of life in the planet. Because the atmosphere in Mars is harsh, it is likelier for underground samples to show signs of life.
The ESA hopes to follow in the footsteps of NASA, which was able to land the Spirit and Opportunity rovers on Mars shortly after Beagle 2 disappeared.

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