‘Lost’ space craft found: Family of dead Milton Keynes scientist express mixed emotions

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A space craft thought to be lost on Mars since 2003 has been found, ending a decade-long mystery.

The Beagle 2 Mars Lander, the brain-child of the late Emeritus Professor at The Open University, Colin Pilinger, has been found partially deployed on the surface of the planet.

This find shows that the Entry, Descent and Landing (EDL) sequence for Beagle 2 worked and the lander did successfully touchdown on Mars on Christmas Day 2003.

Professor Pillinger led the Beagle 2 project with “inspirational enthusiasm” died in May 2014.

Dr Judith Pillinger, who was heavily involved in the Beagle 2 project and was married to Prof. Colin Pillinger, said: “On behalf of Colin, I would like to thank everyone who joined with him to make Beagle 2 happen so many years ago and in particular the NASA MRO HiRISE team and colleagues who have continued to search for the lander.

“For me and his family, of course, seeing the images from Mars brings about mixed emotions.

“An immense sense of pride is inevitably tinged with great sadness that Colin is not able to share the findings with us.

“Colin was always fond of a football analogy. No doubt he would have compared Beagle 2 landing on Mars, but being unable to communicate, to having ‘hit the crossbar’ rather than missing the goal completely.

“Beagle 2 was born out of Colin’s quest for scientific knowledge.

“Had he known the team came so close to scoring he would certainly have been campaigning to ‘tap in the rebound’ with Beagle 3 and continue experiments to answer questions about life on Mars.”

Since the loss of Beagle 2 following its landing on Christmas Day 2003, teams have been patiently screening images from HiRISE looking for signs of Beagle 2.

Subsequent re-imaging and analysis by the Beagle 2 team, HiRISE team and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) has confirmed that the targets discovered, are of the correct size, shape, colour and dispersion to be Beagle 2.