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The Beagle 2 Mars Lander

The Beagle 2 Mars landing spacecraft, revealed in the movie trailer to have been destroyed by an unknown Transformer, is based on an actual spacecraft which was lost for real in 2003. The real Beagle 2 was not a mobile rover though, but a stationary lander.

The Mars Express OrbiterIt was launched in June 2003 from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, as part of the European Space Agency's Mars Express exploration mission. The mission consisted of two parts, the Mars Express Orbiter which mapped Mars from orbit and obtained lots of information on the planet's geological, atmospheric and subsurface structure composition, and the Beagle 2 lander, equipped with a robotic arm which would allow it to collect and examine rock samples on the ground.

The real Beagle 2, as it
        might have looked on MarsThe Mars Express Orbiter entered orbit on December 20, after having ejected the Beagle 2 the day before. The Beagle entered Mars' atmosphere on December 25, and aided by parachutes to slow its descent, and airbags to cushion the landing, it landed on the surface. After landing, the lander was supposed to open up to reveal four solar disks and an antenna. Then it was supposed to broadcast a signal to one of NASA's spacecrafts already in orbit to confirm that it had survived the landing. But the signal never arrived.

Repeated attempts were made to contact the Beagle over the next six weeks, but with no success, and in February 2004 the lander was declared lost. The British government had spent more than 22 millions on the Beagle 2, and private companies more than 44 millions.

The Beagle 2 was actually rediscovered in late 2005, when NASA's spacecraft Mars Global Surveyor photographed the area where the lander had disappeared. It seems the spacecraft had landed in a large crater, unable to transmit its signals from the shadow of the crater walls.


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The last revision was made on Tuesday, July 4, 2006

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