Lost Beagle 2 Spacecraft Found Intact on Mars Surface

The discovery of the lost Beagle 2 spacecraft demonstrates just how close European space authorities were to success when it touched down Christmas Day, 2003.

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has located the British spacecraft Beagle 2 on the Martian surface, eleven years after contact with the probe was lost. The discovery also revealed the apparent cause of the mission's unfortunate end. Jonathan Amos of BBC News reports:

"Beagle's design incorporated a series of deployable 'petals,' on which were mounted its solar panels.

From the images, it seems that this system did not unfurl fully.

'Without full deployment, there is no way we could have communicated with it as the radio frequency antenna was under the solar panels,' explained Prof Mark Sims, Beagle's mission manager from Leicester University.

'The failure cause is pure speculation, but it could have been, and probably was, down to sheer back 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,' he told BBC News."

The spacecraft, named after the ship that twice carried Charles Darwin across the seas, reached the Martian surface on Christmas Day, 2003. Unfortunately for European Space Agency scientists, the jolly holiday was soon mired by the sad news that there was no communication between Beagle 2 and mission control. The lost mission was especially difficult for Colin Pillinger, the English planetary scientist who was the public face of the mission. Perhaps most sad is that Pillinger died this past May never knowing what became of his beloved Beagle 2. 

Read more at BBC News

How to make a black hole

Here's the science of black holes, from supermassive monsters to ones the size of ping-pong balls.

  • There's more than one way to make a black hole, says NASA's Michelle Thaller. They're not always formed from dead stars. For example, there are teeny tiny black holes all around us, the result of high-energy cosmic rays slamming into our atmosphere with enough force to cram matter together so densely that no light can escape.
  • CERN is trying to create artificial black holes right now, but don't worry, it's not dangerous. Scientists there are attempting to smash two particles together with such intensity that it creates a black hole that would live for just a millionth of a second.
  • Thaller uses a brilliant analogy involving a rubber sheet, a marble, and an elephant to explain why different black holes have varying densities. Watch and learn!
  • Bonus fact: If the Earth became a black hole, it would be crushed to the size of a ping-pong ball.

Project 100,000: The Vietnam War's cruel and deadly experiment

Military recruits are supposed to be assessed to see whether they're fit for service. What happens when they're not?

Flickr user Tommy Truong79
Politics & Current Affairs
  • During the Vietnam War, Robert McNamara began a program called Project 100,000.
  • The program brought over 300,000 men to Vietnam who failed to meet minimum criteria for military service, both physically and mentally.
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In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.

Credit: EAST Team
Surprising Science
  • The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
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