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By carefully improving the resolution of images taken by Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter of the landing site of the 2003 European Mars lander Beagle 2, scientists think the lander might have successfully landed but failed to deploy its solar shields completely.
Showing a bright blip in dusty terrain, the new picture is four times the resolution of previous images. The image adds weight to the theory that the diminutive spacecraft – just under a metre in diameter – landed as planned on Mars in 2003, but failed to fully unfurl its solar panels. “Given the size of Beagle 2, even with super-resolution images you are not likely to see more than a series of blobs because it is so small,” said Mark Sims, of the University of Leicester and former mission manager for Beagle 2. “What it does show is that it is on the surface and it is at least partially deployed.”
The technique they have developed for improving image resolution will also be useful to tease out new details about the Martian surface.