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The mystery over what happened to the Beagle 2 spacecraft may have been solved, five years after contact with it was lost as it entered the Martian atmosphere on Christmas Day 2003. An Australian team of hypersonics engineers say a flawed calculation probably resulted in Beagle 2 tumbling out of control as it descended.
After Beagle 2's disappearance, hypersonics experts Michael Macrossan and Madhat Abdel-Jawad at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, simulated the transition and published the results in this month's Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets (DOI: 10.2514/1.37034).
They reckon it is now clear that Beagle 2 was spinning too fast. The spin rate would have corrected any problems in the thin upper atmosphere but as the atmosphere thickened, it would have worked against the self-stabilising aerodynamic forces the craft was generating. As a result, the spacecraft probably tumbled out of control and burned up just seconds after dropping into the atmosphere.

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Britain's ill-fated Mars probe, Beagle 2, may have met a fiery end through a miscalculation, New Scientist reports.
The spacecraft, built to find signs of life, vanished on Christmas Day 2003.
A simulation by Queensland University scientists suggests the probe went out of control during its descent due to a misjudgement of the Martian atmosphere.

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This image was targeted to a dark spot seen in a MOC image that was suggested to be the Beagle 2 landing site.
The dark spot corresponds to an impact crater. The European Beagle 2 lander was carried by the Mars Express orbiting spacecraft and released into the Martian atmosphere in December 2003, but has not been heard from since.

BEAGLE2
Expand (260kb, 1024 x 768)
Credit NASA

Image PSP_002347_1915 was taken by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft on 26-Jan-2007. The complete image is centred at 11.7 degrees latitude, 90.7 degrees East longitude. The range to the target site was 278.3 km. At this distance the image scale is 27.8 cm/pixel (with 1 x 1 binning) so objects ~84 cm across are resolved. The image shown here has been map-projected to 25 cm/pixel and north is up.
The image was taken at a local Mars time of 03:40 PM and the scene is illuminated from the west with a solar incidence angle of 55 degrees, thus the sun was about 35 degrees above the horizon. At a solar longitude of 173.1 degrees, the season on Mars is Northern Summer.

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A detailed image of the planned landing site of the UK-led Beagle Mars probe has found no sign of any wreckage.
Nasa's new Red Planet orbiter used its advanced camera to photograph a crater on Isidis Planitia, a flattish basin where Beagle was targeted to put down.
It was thought the British-built robot could have smashed into the crater after its parachute system opened too late to slow its descent in 2003.
But there is no sign of Beagle in the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter picture.

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A super-powerful camera orbiting Mars may help discover the fate of long-lost spacecraft that never phoned home after reaching the red planet.
NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is now circling that planet, equipped to assist in determining whether life ever arose on Mars and characterize its climate and geology, as well as prepare for future expeditionary crews to land there.
But another sharp-shooting skill of MRO is catching sight of past probes — craft that ran into trouble and died in the line of Mars duty. That includes NASA’s gone but not forgotten Mars Polar Lander and the British-built Beagle 2.

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Yesterday was the second anniversary of the last sighting of Beagle 2, when it was ejected from the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter.


How it should have been: Beagle 2 was supposed to look for signs of life on Mars.

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A close-up of the crater reveals the following possible features:
First impact point - a to ax
Ejecta from impact - ay
Airbags - b, c, d
Beagle 2 lander and unfolded solar panels - e, f, g, h
Parachute - i
Credit: Beagle 2 team/Mike Malin

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The Mars Orbiter Camera cPROTO imaged the candidate Beagle 2 landing site in April 2004 at a resolution of 0.5 meters per pixel.

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The location of the beagle is at 11.7°N, 269.4°W (in eastern Isidis Planitia).
The candidate Beagle 2 site is a small, eroded meteor impact crater with a dark patch of sand on its northern floor.

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