Britain’s ill-fated Beagle 2 probe didn’t crash land on to the surface of Mars after all, research reveals.
Picture analysis shows the lander made a successful landing and went on to carry out work for several months.
The researchers even think there’s a possibility Beagle 2 is still collecting scientific data about the planet.
Prof Mark Sims of Leicester University commissioned the research. He told BBC News:
“It may have worked for hundreds of days depending on how much dust was deposited on the solar panels and whether any dust devils were cleaning the panels - as happened with Nasa’s Mars Exploration Rovers.”
“One possibility is that it could still be working today - but it is extremely unlikely and I doubt that it is.”
Photos taken by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show that when Beagle 2 landed, it opened three of its four solar panels successfully.
But simulations of sunlight reflecting off the simulated images and real pictures of the lander indicate the fourth failed to properly open.
Researchers have suggested the panel may have shielded the radio antenna, preventing it from relaying data back to Earth.
The Open University’s Manish Patel, one of the UK scientists who worked on the mission, told the BBC:
“This kind of tantalising result on a long held mystery is the kind of thing that keeps us going, that really inspires me to persist in the challenge of exploring Mars.
“I like to think that in every failure there is a success hidden somewhere that teaches us and motivates us. This is a perfect example.”
Last week, the European Space Agency revealed photos of its Shiaparelli probe, which exploded when it crash-landed on Mars last month.