The news that Beagle 2 may have been spotted on the surface of Mars in the immediate vicinity of where it was expected to land was welcomed by the European Space Agency.
ESA’s Mars Express spacecraft had delivered the Beagle 2 lander to Mars on 25 December 2003.
ESA’s Director of Science David Southwood said, “If this turns out to be a definitive sighting then we can feel very pleased not only for the Beagle 2 team but also for everyone else involved in getting the probe to Mars and accurately into its descent.”
“Although the discovery cannot make up for the loss of science, there can be more confidence that Beagle 2 made it down to the surface. The search itself has been not been easy and it says something for the persistence and dedication of the team that this report has emerged.”
It is also important if the scenario of impact, as outlined by the team on the basis of the NASA Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft images, can be further investigated.
“This information, if consolidated, can limit what might have gone wrong two years ago and we can use it to increase our own confidence and faith in the methods used when we next face the challenge of going to Mars,” added Southwood.
ESA received the go-ahead for a new European lander mission to Mars, Exomars, with the subscription by Member States for a new exploration programme, Aurora, just a few weeks ago at the ESA Council of Ministers in Berlin on 5-6 December 2005.