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Beagle 2 Mission Information


Beagle 2 Mission

Beagle 2 Mission


Key Dates:

  • 06.02.03: Launch
  • 12.24.03: Lost on Mars (21:54 EST)
  • Status: Spacecraft Lost

Fast Facts:

Beagle 2 was supposed to play a tune written by the British rock band Blur to announce its safe arrival on Mars.

Beagle 2 was named in honor of HMS Beagle, the ship on which Charles Darwin formed his theory of evolution.

Beagle 2 weighed 71 kg (157 pounds).

Beagle 2 Mission Information:

Beagle 2's main mission was to search for signs of life - past or present - in the Martian soil. It was also equipped to look for signs of water and study Mars' geology and atmosphere.

Beagle 2 was equipped with a robot sampling arm and a small "mole" (Planetary Undersurface Tool, or PLUTO) which can be deployed by the arm and was capable of moving across the surface at a rate of about 1 cm every 5 seconds using a compressed spring mechanism. This mechanism can also allow the mole to burrow into the ground and collect a subsurface sample in a cavity in its tip.

The mole was attached to the lander by a power cable which can be used as a winch to bring the sample back to the lander. The lander was equipped with instruments for gas chromatography and mass spectroscopy (the Gas Analysis Package, or GAP), a microscope, panoramic and wide-angle cameras, Mossbauer and X-ray flourescence spectrometers and environmental sensors.
The robot arm was equipped with a grinder and corer, a device to collect a core sample from inside any rocks within reach of the robot arm. The Mossbauer and X-ray spectrometers and the microscope are also held in a package on the end of the arm called the position adjustable workbench, or PAW. The stereo camera system was also mounted on the arm. The lander has the shape of a shallow bowl with a diameter of 0.65 m and a depth of 0.25 m. The cover of the lander was hinged and folds open to reveal the interior of the craft which holds a UHF antenna, the 0.75 m long robot arm, and the scientific equipment.

Beagle 2 Mission Information:

The main body also contained the battery, telecommunications, electronics, and central processor, and the heaters. The lid itself further unfolds to expose four disk-shaped solar arrays. The lander package has a mass of 69 kg at launch but the actual lander was only 33.2 kg at touchdown.

Beagle 2 was launched with the Mars Express Orbiter and was released on a ballistic trajectory towards Mars on 19 December 2003 at 8:31 UT. Beagle 2 coasted for five days after release and entered the martian atmosphere at over 20,000 km/hr on the morning of 25 December. As no signals were received after separation from Mars Express]Mars Express orbiter it is not known what happened during the landing sequence After initial deceleration in the martian atmosphere from simple friction, parachutes were to be deployed and about 1 km above the surface large gas bags would have inflated around the lander to protect it when it hit the surface. Landing was expected to occur at about 02:54 UT on 25 December (9:54 p.m. EST 24 December). After landing the bags would deflate and the top of the lander would open. The top would unfold to expose the four solar array disks. Within the body of the lander a UHF antenna would have been deployed. A panoramic image of the landing area would be taken using the stereo camera and a pop-up mirror. A signal was scheduled to be sent after landing (and possibly an image) to Mars Odyssey at about 5:30 UT and another the next (local) morning to confirm that Beagle 2 survived the landing and the first night on Mars. No signal was received at this time nor at any of the subsequent opportunities. Nothing further is known about the lander.

Beagle 2 was declared lost after no communications were received following the scheduled landing on Mars. Attempts at contact were made for over a month after the expected landing at 2:54 UT December 25. A board of inquiry was appointed to look into the reason for the failure and released its report on 24 August 2004. No concrete reason for the probe's failure was determined. Factors that were considered as plausible causes of the failure were unusually thin atmosphere over the landing site, electronic glitches, a gas bag puncture, damage to a heat shield, a broken communications antenna, and collision with an unforeseen object.

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