The Mars probe Beagle 2, believed to have been destroyed by a high-speed impact more than ten years ago, has been found intact on the planet’s surface.
Scientists were unable to make radio contact with the British landing spacecraft after it attempted touchdown on the red planet on Christmas Day 2003.
However, NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has now shared high-resolution images of the craft on the Martian surface. It appears that a series of solar panels did not deploy correctly, preventing the craft from receiving any communications from Earth.
"Without full deployment, there is no way we could have communicated with it as the radio frequency antenna was under the solar panels," Professor Mark Sims, Beagle's mission manager told the BBC.
"The failure cause is pure speculation, but it could have been, and probably was, down to sheer bad luck - a heavy bounce perhaps distorting the structure as clearances on solar panel deployment weren't big; or a punctured and slowly leaking airbag not separating sufficiently from the lander, causing a hang-up in deployment."
The Beagle 2 was launched on a mission to collect and analyse rock and soil samples to determine the possibility of there being life on Mars. It landed barca mere 5km from the centre of its proposed touchdown zone, suggesting the majority of the probe’s descent went as planned.
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter was launched in 2005 and has previously shared images of the two Viking Landers that reached Mars in the 1970s as well as NASA’s Phoenix and Curiosity rovers.
The Commission of Inquiry set up in the wake of the Beagle 2 mission found that poor management and a lack of financial resources had been the primary causes for its failure. At £50 million, Beagle 2 remains one of the lowest cost interplanetary missions ever proposed.