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Eleven years after Earth lost contact with the Britain's Beagle 2 Mars Lander, scientists have new images that show the spacecraft survived its Christmas Day touchdown on the red planet, in good enough shape to pull out its solar-power panels.

Eleven years after Earth lost contact with the Britain's Beagle 2 Mars Lander, scientists have new images that show the spacecraft survived its Christmas Day touchdown on the red planet, in good enough shape to pull out its solar-power panels.

The pictures, taken by a high-resolution camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, contain objects that are consistent with the size and shape of Beagle 2, according to a statement from the US space agency.

The lander, measuring about 7 feet (2 meters) across, was just big enough to be detected by the camera.

Beagle 2, named for the vessel Charles Darwin was aboard as he developed the theory of evolution, was supposed to dig beneath the Martian surface to look for signs of life.

It appears that the craft was "partially deployed", with its main parachute nearby and a second chute still attached to its rear, NASA said. Beagle 2 was within the expected landing area.

ruined

"My Christmas Day in 2003, alongside many others who worked on Beagle 2, was ruined by the disappointment of not receiving data from the surface of Mars," said Mark Sims, the craft's mission manager, who's now working as a professor at the University of Leicester.

"I had all but given up hope of ever knowing what happened to Beagle 2. The images show that we came so close to achieving the goal of science on Mars."

hnews@herald.ie


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