In the history of exploration mysterious places have been a part of the human experience with stories of ancient submerged islands, strange creatures, ghost ships, derelict abandoned ships and seas that make ships and their crew disappear.
Space seems to be offering the same experience with a number of probes vanishing and the UK designed and built lander, Beagle 2, which was part of the European Space Agency Mars Express mission to the red planet in 2003, also succumbing to the most mysterious of planets, Mars.
There had been hopes that Beagle would be spotted by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) spacecraft using its High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera (HiRISE) to image the region of Mars, and in particular the crater, inwhich the UK probe was likely to have landed.
But nothing has been found. None of the interesting features that were spotted by the Mars Orbiter Camera onboard NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft and suggested to be the parachutes of Beagle's entry, descent and landing system (EDLS) have turned up.
Beagle 2 was targeted to land in an ellipse in the region called Isidis Planetia. Yet the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the University of Arizona MRO image analysis team can't find the lander.
Professor Colin Pillinger of the UK's Open University and lead scientist for Beagle 2 is still hopeful that his probe can be found but the lack of any evidence raises bigger questions about the EDLS and where the lander ended up.
Beagle's EDLS was the same as the one used by the ESA Huygens probe that landed on TItan in January 2005.
With an ejection and spin manoeuvre from its Mars Express mothership Beagle should have hit the Martian atmosphere at a particular point that saw it decelerate with its heat shield and then slow itself down with various parachutes before using an airbag to strike the ground within the Isidis Planetia.
When the lander failed to radio back the subsequent ESA/UK investigation into Beagle's disappearence found that there were problems with the development of the EDLS. As such the report states that the likely reasons for Beagle's disappearence were the air-bag design not being robust enough; a possible collision between the lander's back cover and the main parachute; the rebounding of the lander, from the airbag impact with the Martian surface, into the main parachute and the untimely release of the lander from the airbag.
One theory, not in the report, had been that the parachutes had failed, in which case Beagle hit the Martian surface at a very fast 6,000m/s (1.1 million ft/min). Another theory was that the Martian atmosphere model was not correct and the parachutes were unable to slow Beagle sufficiently.
Maybe one day an orbiter will image Beagle's large parachutes being blown across the surface or debris that could be the lander, or a future rover will come across the lander's remains, but for now Beagle 2 remains another mysterious loss in the solar system's equivalent of the Bermuda triangle.