A British-built probe which vanished 11 years ago has been found on the surface of Mars, scientists said yesterday, solving an enduring mystery of space exploration. Joy at the discovery was tinged with sadness that it came a year after the death of Professor Colin Pillinger, the eccentric but brilliant driving force behind the 2003 mission. Pillinger, whose mutton-chop sideburns helped make him one of Britain's favourite mad scientist figures, raised much of the money for the launch himself and died frustrated at the lack of support for a follow-up mission. "Thomas Edison developed 50 ways of not making a working light bulb before he created the thing for which he's remembered," Pillinger told his hometown newspaper, the Bristol Post , in 2012. "If we'd turned around immediately and said we'll give it another shot, we could have men on their way to Mars by now." The Beagle 2 was a £50 million (HK$590 million) mission to establish whether there was, or had ever been, life on Mars but it was lost without trace on December 26, 2003. The probe was detected during an analysis of images taken by Nasa's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter last year but scientists said it would now be impossible to retrieve the data which it gathered. "What we can say with some confidence today is that Beagle 2 is no longer lost and furthermore it seems we are not looking at a crash site," David Parker, head of the UK Space Agency, told reporters. "These images are consistent with the Beagle 2 having successfully landed on Mars but then only partially deploying itself." This partial deployment meant that it could not make contact with the Beagle team on earth and that the data stored by the machine can no longer be retrieved. Images showed the lander's pilot chute still attached and its main parachute nearby in the intended landing area - the Isidis Planitia basin. The discovery makes Beagle 2 the first European spacecraft to land successfully on Mars. The probe was named after HMS Beagle, the ship which carried Charles Darwin on a journey to South America and the Pacific in the 1830s which help him develop his theory of evolution.