beagle 2
Beagle 2 was lost after separating from the Mars Express on 19 December 2003. Reuters

The long-lost Beagle 2 Mars probe that went missing in action over 10 years ago is believed to have been spotted somewhere on the red planet.

The UK Space Agency announced it will hold a press conference on 16 January about the failed mission - but has refused to give any further detail - leading to widespread speculation that the probe has been found.

A spokesman said: "Obviously there will be a lot of speculation but we can't say anything at present. It will definitely be of interest."

beagle 2
The UK Space Agency has announced a press conference, but remains tight-lipped about what it is for. Reuters

Beagle 2 was supposed to land on Mars on 25 December, 2003, serving to investigate Martian soil and search for extra-terrestrial life - past or present. It was the first British attempt to explore another planet.

However, it never came to be. Named after the HMS Beagle, the ship that took Charles Darwin on one of his voyages, the probe was released from the Mars Express to make its descent to the red planet on 19 December and was never heard from again.

Speaking to the Times, a senior space scientist who has looked at images from Nasa's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, said they have found an object that was roughly the "right shape" and in "about the right place" to be Beagle 2.

Colin Pillinger
Colin Pillinger, the British scientist behind the project, died last year. Reuters

Shane Byrne from the University of Arizona, operating a highly-detailed camera called HiRise, told the Guardian: "HiRise is the only camera at Mars that can see former spacecraft like Beagle 2. It's definitely pretty close to its intended landing spot, no matter what. It entered the atmosphere at the right time and place."

What happened to the probe has always remained a mystery, despite a number of false alarms claiming to have found it.

The project was proposed by Colin Pillinger, from the Open University, who died last year.