Marsbound Sky & Telescope

At first glance, this photo looks like yet another lame attempt at a UFO hoax. But in reality it’s an important milestone in Western Europe’s first attempt to land a science package on the surface of another planet. At 8:31 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time on December 19, the British-built Beagle 2 Mars lander successfully separated from the European Space Agency’s Mars Express orbiter. Mars Express’s Visual Monitoring Camera took this image of Beagle 2 (far left) about two minutes after separation. Beagle 2 is just 20 meters (66 feet) from the mother ship and pulling ahead at a relative speed of about 0.3 meter per second.