Tag: mars express

Spacecraft found on Mars – and it’s ours




Computer image of the Beagle 2


Excerpt from skyandtelescope.com
By Kelly Beatty  


On December 25, 2003, a British-built lander dropped to the Martian surface and disappeared without a trace. Now we know what happened to it.  It's hard to overstate how valuable the main camera aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been. The craft's High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, or HiRISE, uses a 20-inch (0.5-m) f/24 telescope to record details on the Martian surface as small as 0.3 m (about 10 inches). 

Beagle 2 seen from orbit by HiRISE
An overhead view of Beagle 2's landing site on Isidis Planitia shows a bright reflection from the long-lost spacecraft. Apparently it landed safely on December 25, 2003, and had begun to operate when it failed. NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter recorded this image on December 15, 2014. NASA / JPL / Univ. of Arizona / Univ. of Leicester - See more at: http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/beagle-2-lander-found-on-mars-01192015/#sthash.5KSZ8V6W.dpuf


Primarily it's a powerful tool for studying Martian geology at the smallest scales, and NASA scientists sometimes use it to track the progress (and even the arrivals) of their rovers. Beagle 2 on Mars  The clamshell-like Beagle 2 lander weighed just 30 kg, but it was well equipped to study Martian rocks and dust — and even to search for life. Beagle 2 consortium  But the HiRISE team has also been on a years-long quest to find the remains of Beagle 2, a small lander that had hitchhiked to the Red Planet with the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter. It descended to the Martian surface on Christmas Day in 2003 and was never heard from again. Space aficionados have debated its fate ever since. Did parachute failure lead to a crash landing? Did strong surface winds flip the saucer-shaped craft upside down? Did the Martians take it hostage?  Now, thanks to HiRISE, we know more of the story.  
An overhead view of Beagle 2's landing site on Isidis Planitia shows a bright reflection from the long-lost spacecraft. Apparently it landed safely on December 25, 2003, and had begun to operate when it failed. NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter recorded this image on December 15, 2014. NASA / JPL / Univ. of Arizona / Univ. of Leicester 


Images taken in February 2013 and June 2014 of the landing area in Isidis Planitia showed promising blips near the edge of each frame. A follow-up color view, acquired on December 15th and released three days ago, show a bright spot consistent with Beagle 2. The fully-opened lander would have been less than 2 m (6½ feet) across, so the craft is only barely resolved. Apparently the spacecraft made it to the surface intact, opened its clamshell cover, and had partially deployed its four petal-shaped solar-cell panels before something went awry. Beagle 2 seen from orbit by HiRISE  

One encouraging clue is that the bright reflection changes position slightly from image to image, consistent with sunlight reflecting off different lander panels. Two other unusual spots a few hundred meters away appears to be the lander's parachute and part of the cover that served as a shield during the 5½-km-per-second atmospheric descent...


On December 25, 2003, a British-built lander dropped to the Martian surface and disappeared without a trace. Now we know what happened to it.
It's hard to overstate how valuable the main camera aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been. The craft's High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, or HiRISE, uses a 20-inch (0.5-m) f/24 telescope to record details on the Martian surface as small as 0.3 m (about 10 inches). Primarily it's a powerful tool for studying Martian geology at the smallest scales, and NASA scientists sometimes use it to track the progress (and even the arrivals) of their rovers.
Beagle 2 on Mars
The clamshell-like Beagle 2 lander weighed just 30 kg, but it was well equipped to study Martian rocks and dust — and even to search for life.
Beagle 2 consortium
But the HiRISE team has also been on a years-long quest to find the remains of Beagle 2, a small lander that had hitchhiked to the Red Planet with the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter. It descended to the Martian surface on Christmas Day in 2003 and was never heard from again. Space aficionados have debated its fate ever since. Did parachute failure lead to a crash landing? Did strong surface winds flip the saucer-shaped craft upside down? Did the Martians take it hostage?
Now, thanks to HiRISE, we know more of the story. Images taken in February 2013 and June 2014 of the landing area in Isidis Planitia showed promising blips near the edge of each frame. A follow-up color view, acquired on December 15th and released three days ago, show a bright spot consistent with Beagle 2. The fully-opened lander would have been less than 2 m (6½ feet) across, so the craft is only barely resolved. Apparently the spacecraft made it to the surface intact, opened its clamshell cover, and had partially deployed its four petal-shaped solar-cell panels before something went awry.
Beagle 2 seen from orbit by HiRISE
An overhead view of Beagle 2's landing site on Isidis Planitia shows a bright reflection from the long-lost spacecraft. Apparently it landed safely on December 25, 2003, and had begun to operate when it failed. NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter recorded this image on December 15, 2014.
NASA / JPL / Univ. of Arizona / Univ. of Leicester
One encouraging clue is that the bright reflection changes position slightly from image to image, consistent with sunlight reflecting off different lander panels. Two other unusual spots a few hundred meters away appears to be the lander's parachute and part of the cover that served as a shield during the 5½-km-per-second atmospheric descent.
The initial images didn't just show up. They'd been requested and searched by Michael Croon of Trier, Germany, who'd served on the Mars Express operations team. Croon had asked for specific camera targeting through a program called HiWish, through which anyone can submit suggestions for HiRISE images. Read more about this fascinating sleuthing story.
"Not knowing what happened to Beagle 2 remained a nagging worry," comments Rudolf Schmidt in an ESA press release about the find. "Understanding now that Beagle 2 made it all the way down to the surface is excellent news." Schmidt served as the Mars Express project manager at the time.
Built by a consortium of organizations, Beagle 2 was the United Kingdom's first interplanetary spacecraft. The 32-kg (73-pound) lander carried six instruments to study geochemical characteristics of the Martian surface and to test for the presence of life using assays of carbon isotopes. It was named for HMS Beagle, the ship that carried a crew of 73 (including Charles Darwin) on an epic voyage of discovery in 1831–36.
- See more at: http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/beagle-2-lander-found-on-mars-01192015/#sthash.5KSZ8V6W.dpuf

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A pie on Mars? Bizarre structure baffles scientists

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has snapped an image of a mysterious circular landform that scientists say could be volcanic in origin.Excerpt from csmonitor.comA NASA Mars probe has photographed a strange Red Planet landform that resembles a fres...

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Mysterious Mars ~ Why have so many Mars missions ended in failure?

Mars as imaged by the Hubble telescopeWith so many failures of U.S. as well as Russian missions sent to Mars, one begins to wonder if there is another cause at the root of these mission ending failures other than technical glitches. Most intriguing are...

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India’s Mars Probe Sends Its First Images Back to Earth


Mars orbiter Mangalyaan
India's first Mars orbiter Mangalyaan captured this photo of the Martian atmosphere just after arriving at Mars on Sept. 24, 2014 Indian Standard Time. The Indian Space Research Organisation released the image on Sept. 25.
Credit: Indian Space Research Organisation

scientificamerican.com

The India Space Research Organization unveils its first pictures of the red planet.

India's first Mars probe has captured its first photos, revealing an early glimpse of the surface and atmosphere of the Red Planet.
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) unveiled the first photos of Mars from its Mangalyaan spacecraft via Facebook and Twitter on Wednesday and Thursday (Sept. 24-25), just a day or so after the probe made it to the Red Planet.

Mars surface

"The view is nice up here," ISRO officials tweeted about one of the images, which shows a heavily cratered portion of the Red Planet's surface.

Another photo depicts the curving, orange-brown limb of Mars against the blackness of space.

"A shot of Martian atmosphere. I'm getting better at it. No pressure," ISRO officials tweeted about that one.

Mangalyaan, whose name means "Mars craft" in Sanskrit, arrived at the Red Planet on Tuesday night (Sept. 23), making India's space agency just the fourth entity — after the United States, the Soviet Union and the European Space Agency — to successfully place a probe in orbit around Mars.

Mangalyaan is the centerpiece of India's $74 million Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), which ISRO officials have described as primarily a technology demonstration. The spacecraft carries a camera and four scientific instruments that it will use to study the Martian surface and atmosphere during the course of a mission expected to last six to 10 months. 

MOM reached Mars close on the heels of NASA's MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution) probe, which was captured by the Red Planet's gravity on Sunday (Sept. 21). The $671 million MAVEN mission aims to help scientists determine what happened to Mars' atmosphere, which was once relatively thick but is now just 1 percent as dense as that of Earth.

MAVEN has also taken its first images of Mars from orbit; NASA released a few false-color views of the planet's atmosphere on Wednesday.

Mars orbit now hosts five operational spacecraft; NASA's Mars Odyssey probe and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, as well as Europe's Mars Express craft, share space with MAVEN and Mangalyaan. And two rovers (NASA's Opportunity and Curiosity) are actively exploriong the planet's surface.

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