Beagle 2 - Your Insights

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posted on Aug, 25 2004 @ 01:57 PM
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On December 19 last year, Beagle 2, a small British-built lander, ejected from its mothership, the European Space Agency's Mars Express, and started on its final trajectory to Isidis Planitia on the Red Planet. The U.K.'s first mission to another planet was to land on Christmas morning, pop open like a pocket watch, and begin a search for signs of life, past or present. Mars Express snapped several images of the tiny lander as it departed. Those images are the last anyone has seen or heard of it. Beagle 2 disappeared without a trace, to date, to be found.

Today, in the just-released Beagle2Mars Mission Report, the mission operations team analyzes a thorough list of possible failure mechanisms that could have sealed the fate of the British lander -- including electronic glitches, damage to the heat shield, a broken communications antenna, and collision with an unforeseen object, but suggests that Mars Express targeted Beagle 2 at the correct velocity and spin rate, and that it is "most likely" that it failed during entry, descent, and landing, as a result of atmospheric conditions or the airbags breaking on impact or the first bounce.

Since there is no radio telemetry or visual data of Beagle 2 post ejection from Mars Express, there is no way to unequivocally identify the cause of failure, and the report ultimately concludes: "No definitive cause could be identified due to the paucity of data."

Beagle2Mars is based on an internal investigation of the mission and is published in two parts: 1) the Mission Report chronicles and reviews the effort, noting its achievements, detailing potential causes of failure, and describing the search strategy to try and find the lander; 2) Lessons Learned and Management and Programmatics, reviews how the project was managed, the constraints it confronted, as well as documents lessons learned in every phase of the mission.

This report comes three months after ESA and the British government completed their investigation. Although those two entities jointly issued a set of recommendations, the report of that investigation was sealed to all except those with a need to know.

With what there is to compare, both reports are unified in citing the need for "improved characterizations of the Martian atmosphere," as "critical" to the success or failure of future missions. Both reports also agree that next time the lander must be viewed and treated as an integral part of the mission and not as an instrument as Beagle 2 was, that decisions to be made on projects promptly to give the mission time to retire the risks, and that changes in the way such a project is managed need to be made.


The team "strongly" recommends in the report "that any future combined orbiter and lander mission is managed and defined as a cohesive programme, with no part given less than equal priority."


The Beagle 2 project was "internally managed to high professional standards under severe interface, schedule and financing constraints," the team writes. "Some critical decisions were forced upon the program due to lack of time to undertake technically preferred tests, following lack of sufficient early funding, however all systems were tested." From the time the project began in early 1999 to June 2001, "only 19% of the work was completed" because of these reasons, "leaving just 20 months to delivery to Mars Express. The operations and ground system were developed successfully under similar schedule and funding pressure." That noted, they go on to point out that Beagle 2 "was delivered on time to the launch site" and was carried aloft by Mars Express and operated successfully throughout the cruise phase to Mars."


Colin Pillinger -- the father and driving force behind Beagle 2 -- has been saying since last spring that he thought the 'puppy,' as he had affectionately called his charge, probably crashed into the planet, because the atmosphere was impacted by a regional dust storm and was, consequently, less dense than anticipated. The data that is the basis of that belief comes from an instrument onboard Mars Express that indicated evidence of unusually low atmospheric density, according to the report, and from NASA's Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, both of which encountered atmospheric density surprisingly lower than models described. If Beagle 2 did encounter less resistance, its parachutes and airbags that were to cushion its fall would have been deployed too late or not at all.



Click to enlarge
One of the last images of Beagle 2 taken by Mars Express.
Image: ESA
In its investigation, the team found that a few glitches notwithstanding Beagle 2's systems operated nominally up to and through the process of ejection from Mars Express on December 19. They did discover and analyze a piece of debris of unknown size -- estimating it to be anywhere from ~2-3 millimeters to between 20 mm X 20 mm and 60 mm X 60 mm -- that appears in the images acquired by Mars Express to have followed Beagle 2 as it left the mothership. While the potential for that debris to have damaged and interfered with the Beagle's safe arrival cannot be ruled out, the team views the likelihood for that as "very low."


The internal investigation found no significant reason to doubt the operation of the main parachute, counter to one early hypothesis. Although the mission had failure issues with its first parachute design, the system that replaced it "met all of its specified requirements," according to the report.


After considering whether Beagle 2 might have landed in one of two large craters discovered within the predicted landing area, which would have hindered or damaged the lander's ability to signal, the team concludes in the report that the probability of the probe dropping into one of those was, like the debris and main parachute failure theories, "very low."


In chronicling the efforts to find Beagle 2, the team assessed a tiny speck on an image from Michael Malin's Mars Orbital Camera (MOC) onboard Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) as a possible candidate for the little lander. Malin has been imaging the landing sites of rovers Spirit and Opportunity, and agreed last January to join the search for the little British lander.That possibility turned out to be a small crater, and so the mystery of what happened to Beagle is likely to remain for awhile, if not forever. [If Beagle 2 did make it to the surface intact, it is possible that Mars Reconaissance Orbiter (MRO), which is scheduled to launch in 2009 and offers a better chance of getting higher resolution images of the landing area, may pinpoint its location.]


It is a universal truth in the realm of space exploration that landing on Mars is hard. One need only remember that the United States and former Soviet Union suffered a number of failures before actually touching down on Mars, and that, historically, an average of two out of every three missions to Mars have ended in failure.

Although Beagle 2 did not arrive safely, the team opines in the report that it should be acknowledged for advancing planetary lander technology in Europe, and the unprecedented accomplishments it did achieve, not the least of which is getting Europe turned on to exploring other planets. Indeed, Beagle 2 did capture the hearts of the United Kingdom and space enthusiasts around the world. The impact, the team contends, resounds today. "A Rubicon has been crossed," it writes in the report.

Meanwhile, Pillinger revealed at a press conference in London this morning that he is "looking at the future," and has written to NASA asking whether room can be found for a successor to Beagle on the much larger rover mission, Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), according to the Mail and Guardian. Slated to launch in 2009, MSL is an all-extraterrestrial terrain, long-range, long-duration robot rover that will explore the Red Planet for years to assess whether it could be a habitat for life -- past or present -- and to help verify if human explorers could exist there in the future. He has not yet received a reply.

Beagle 2 was a partnership between the Open University, where Pillinger is head of Planetary and Space Sciences, the University of Leicester, and EADS Astrium (U.K.), with other funding coming from ESA, the U.K.'s Office of Science and Technology of the Department of Trade and Industry, the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC), the Wellcome Trust, the British National Space Center and the Millennium Commission. The report can be read in full at the University of Leicester.


Full article can be read here:

planetary.org...


your insights and thoughts on the Beagle 2?




posted on Aug, 25 2004 @ 02:07 PM
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We are still pretty new to space exploraton, all conspiracies aside. I believe that the Beagle 2 probe hit the atmosphere of mars a wee too hard and it broke apart. There are so many variables to consider in taking on a spaceflight. Our control of a robotic probe at martian distance is about 20 mins. behind what can occur. With no time to react to anything that could crop up, it's any wonder we've gotten anything to get to mars at all. But let's keep sending robots into the solar system, we'll get good enough to send people some day.



posted on Aug, 25 2004 @ 06:24 PM
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The ESA's failure with this mission should be taken with some pause. They launch far fewer missions so every failure gets a spotlight turned on it. NASA has had many failures as well, but when you send up 5 times as many missions they seem par for the course to some extent.

Although, since they do send up fewer missions and the money spent tends to be much more of a burden they should really take the time to fully test all aspects of said missions before launch. I think there was a sense of competition and urgency to match the Americans on this one and this may have lead to the lack of oversight.



[edit on 25-8-2004 by Weller]



posted on Aug, 25 2004 @ 08:42 PM
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Dunno if there's any truth to it or not, but I read somewhere that the beagle 2 is actually ok. It landed near vegetation and NASA didn't want to let the world see that. However, that sounds a bit extreme.


E_T

posted on Aug, 26 2004 @ 01:14 AM
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Originally posted by Weller
The ESA's failure with this mission should be taken with some pause.

Although, since they do send up fewer missions and the money spent tends to be much more of a burden they should really take the time to fully test all aspects of said missions before launch.

It wasn't made by ESA, Mars Express had it as hitchhiker. It was separate British group who made it.
They made it fast and cheap and there wasn't time for complete tests.



posted on Aug, 26 2004 @ 02:43 PM
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yes yes...and mars is too cold and too dry, and has a pink sky.



posted on Aug, 26 2004 @ 03:17 PM
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Hopefully the same thing doesn't happen with the ESA built Huygens probe set for a landing on Saturn's moon titan this Christmass.

I'm suprised on this thread that I havn't seen any posts saying something like a US spaceship shot it down or it was captured by aliens for study. (Which is good)

Also the time it takes for us to send a message to Mars is around 7 minutes, But still not quick enough if you need to do some sort of evasive meneuver. I would agree that it burned up in the atmosphere, ESA is still new to the game of sending probes.

Besides # Happenens, no one's perfect

[edit on 26-8-2004 by Murcielago]



posted on Aug, 27 2004 @ 07:28 AM
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I think it landed safely.... in quicksand and promptly sank :-)



posted on Aug, 27 2004 @ 10:59 AM
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I believe the Beagle suffered the same fate as the Mars Polar Lander, the MARSIS antenna, and 99.5% of the Mars Express images.

These missions have gone black, for obvious reasons.



posted on Aug, 27 2004 @ 04:10 PM
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Originally posted by moxyone
I believe the Beagle suffered the same fate as the Mars Polar Lander, the MARSIS antenna, and 99.5% of the Mars Express images.

These missions have gone black, for obvious reasons.



What are you implying? That Aliens live on mars or that there is trees and oxygen, or what?
Personally I believe what I can see, i'm sure you have seen the mars rovers pics, whats to hide?



posted on Aug, 30 2004 @ 10:47 PM
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Originally posted by E_T

Originally posted by Weller
The ESA's failure with this mission should be taken with some pause.

Although, since they do send up fewer missions and the money spent tends to be much more of a burden they should really take the time to fully test all aspects of said missions before launch.

It wasn't made by ESA, Mars Express had it as hitchhiker. It was separate British group who made it.
They made it fast and cheap and there wasn't time for complete tests.


Yes, your right, thanks for the correction. But, I don't know why they cut the testing short other than a desire to compete. Either way, I would have rather seen them take the time to get it right. Even the best planned missions can fail.


Q

posted on Aug, 31 2004 @ 03:28 AM
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I'm inclined to believe that (yet another) math error trashed the Beagle2 mission.

Mars Express cut Beagle2 loose a couple of days out. The idea being that the Beagle would come in on it's own trajectory and make it's landing. Well, whaddaya know, when the Express entered orbit and reported in...it wasn't where they expected it to be. It did enter orbit, and course was corrected to compensate, but the fact remains that it wasn't where they thought it was/was supposed to be. Ergo, it wasn't where they expected it to be when it cut the Beagle2 loose either, and therefore screwed it's trajectory. Beagle2 either missed Mars entirely and is sailing through space waiting for a touchdown that'll never happen, burned up in the atmosphere, or made a resounding "whump" as it disintegrated upon impact.

Seeing as there's no evidence whatsoever that the Beagle2 made it to the surface (no wreckage found, nothing), I'm inclined to believe the first or second scenarios.

This "navigational error" was not widely reported (from sheer embarassment?), but the source was the Beagle2 site itself. I don't have a link, but if anyone's interested enough, it could probably be dug up (if they haven't deep-sixed this little detail in a coverup attempt).

A damn shame, I was rooting for the little hound. A very expensive object lesson in fail-safe design of spacecraft, nothing more.

Either that, or it did land in quicksand, or is currently being molested by little green men. Who can say?

I've often wondered about the "quicksand" possibility, ZeBadger. If they say they're detecting water immediately below the surface...who's to say there isn't a muddy plain of sorts in places? Of course, pure water would evaporate quickly due to the atmosphere, but what if it was either mud, or water insulated from atmospheric evaporation by a "crust" of fine particles (of which Mars is blessed with an overabundance of) on top? Kind of like the "skin" that forms on a bowl of tomato soup when left out for a while... Note that in multiple pictures from the NASA rovers, the soil takes on distinctly "mudlike" properties in many areas. This still has not been adequately explained. This, and the fact that a "frost" has refrozen in some of the trenches dug by the rovers (again, coincedentally in the same mudlike-appearing areas). By their own science, NASA has said that a water "brine" (read:mud) is possible on Mars' surface.


GD

posted on Aug, 31 2004 @ 11:17 AM
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I was really pulling for this to work. It was really cost effective, adn I think would have returned some great science.


GD

posted on Aug, 31 2004 @ 11:17 AM
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Originally posted by godservant
Dunno if there's any truth to it or not, but I read somewhere that the beagle 2 is actually ok. It landed near vegetation and NASA didn't want to let the world see that. However, that sounds a bit extreme.


Uhhh, it wasn't a NASA probe...


GD

posted on Aug, 31 2004 @ 11:20 AM
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Originally posted by Q
I'm inclined to believe that (yet another) math error trashed the Beagle2 mission.


I'm a software QA professional. When I heard that about the earlier mission, I almost cried. That was inexcusable.


Q

posted on Sep, 2 2004 @ 01:01 AM
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Indeed, GD. I happen to be a manufacturing QA professional myself!

Everybody thinks they have enough QC...until their multimillion dollar mission goes "kablooey"!






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