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SPACE TRAVEL


Beagle 2 B


novel analysis technique solves landing mystery


In the February issue of Environmental Engineering, Andy Pye spoke to Professor Steve Burnage, Chief Engineer for Beagle 2’s spin-up eject mechanism (SUEM) about the testing processes which ultimately proved that it did perform its objective of getting the probe to Mars, after all. Now, a further study finds that the Mars lander deployed at least three or all four of its solar panels.


10 /// Environmental Engineering /// December 2016


eagle 2 was part of the ESAMars ExpressMission launched in June 2003.Mars Express is still orbiting Mars and returning scientific data about the planet. Beagle 2 was successfully ejected fromESA’sMars Express spacecraft on 19 December 2003 but failed to


send a signal on Christmas Day – its scheduled landing day on Mars. It was presumed lost untilmore than 10 years later when themystery of what happened to themission was solved through images taken by NASA’sMars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). On landing, the probe was supposed to open like a clamshell


and deploy solar panels and instruments that would look for signs of life onMars, but nothingmore was heard fromBeagle 2 after it was ejected fromitsmothership and contact ceased…until early in 2015. Now, thanks to an innovative research technique, a


collaboration between DeMontfort University and the University of Leicester hasmoved one step closer to understanding exactly what happened to the ill-fatedMars Lander Beagle 2. Researchers fromDeMontfort University and the University of


Leicester have worked together to come up with a new way to detect the configuration of the lander – reflection analysis – matching simulated and real images of Beagle 2. A 3Dmodelling technique is based on simulating possible configurations of the lander on the surface and comparing the light of the Sun reflected by the simulated lander with the unprocessed images available fromtheHiRISE camera at a number of different sun angles. It reveals for the first time that Beagle 2 deployed at least three,


and possibly all four, of its solar panels after touching down on the planet’s surface. The finding will rewrite scientific knowledge about the stricken Lander – it was previously thought that perhaps only (as few as) two of the four solar panels had deployed. ProfessorMark Sims, former Beagle 2MissionManager and


Professor of Astrobiology and Space Instrumentation at the University of Leicester, turned to a teamat DeMontfort University to realise his reflection analysis concept. Commercially available software used for 3Dmodelling, animation, visual effects and simulation design was adapted to enable such analysis. “TheDeMontfort teamwas responsible for all the 3D


simulation work to test the reflection analysis concept. In order to do this, our visualisation specialist Teodora Kuzmanova had to create a physically accurate 3Dmodel of the Beagle 2Mars Lander with surfaces that would accurately reflect virtual sunlight. The angle of the sun had to be simulated, along with position of a


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