Tuesday, 25 December 2018

the beagle has landed

Mars, being a world populated exclusively so far as we know by robots, was visited on Christmas Day (sol five hundred ninety-nine) by the lander unit of the European Space Agency’s Mars Express to conduct an exobiology survey of the Red Planet by digging below the frozen surface, an ambitious feat not attempted again until now with the InSight mission’s dousing for water.

The Beagle 2, named after the HMS Beagle that famously transported Charles Darwin to the Galápagos archipelago, informing his thoughts on natural selection, had an impressive array of instruments but failed to establish contact with the orbiter or mission control after deploying. In February of 2004, the search mission was called off and the rover declared lost and it was not until another ordinance survey of the planet in 2015 that it was spotted in the spot where it ought to have touched-down. The solar panels failed to fully open, eventually starving the machine of power and also prevented the communication antennae from raising. Because the experiments were to begin upon landing under chemical battery reserves, it’s possible that the Beagle searched its immediate surroundings for some weeks before expiring—which perhaps another passing rover could confirm in the future and maybe reboot the original mission.