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Beagle 2 is a British craft that is due to be sent to Mars in 2003 on the Mars Express. The mission of this craft is to search for life on the red planet and it is named after The Beagle, the ship that carried Darwin to the Galapagos Islands.

The research in the project is an all British affair. The project received not very much money from the British government agencies that fund such projects and although it got the scientific go ahead from ESA and from NASA it looked for a while that there would not be enough funding.

At this point the head of the project looked into alternative sources of funding and 'advertising' has been sold in order to cover costs.

Champions of Britpop and Britart, Blur and Damien Hirst are also involved in this attempt at "Britspace". The first signal the craft will send back to earth after it lands on Mars will be a five note tune to be specially composed by Blur. The sensing equipment will calibrate itself by training on a Hurst spot painting that is to be etched on the inside of the craft.

Where is Beagle 2?

Hello… is there anybody in there? – Pink Floyd: The Wall

Ejected from Mars Express on December 19th, 2003 Beagle 2 was set to land on Mars on Christmas Day 2003. It was to deploy its solar arrays and power up in order to send a signal through Mars Odyssey to indicate that all systems were nominal.

No signal was received. Mars Odyssey made several more attempts to contact the rover as parent ship Mars Express moved into position.

What might have gone wrong.

  • A crash landing could have occurred if Beagle 2 failed to deploy its airbags, jettison its heat shield or deploy its parachutes. Scientists are highly doubtful that this occurred – although there is no direct evidence to the contrary.
  • An internal clock mistiming would prevent Beagle from “talking” at the proper time – thus Mars Odyssey would not be able to pick up the signal. This theory was disproved when Mars Odyssey sent a signal to the rover with a command to reset the internal clock.
  • A detailed picture of Beagle’s landing site showed a half-mile wide crater. Scientists believe that the walls may be blocking the signal, or that Beagle 2 tumbled into it.
  • Because Mars Odyssey was having difficulty talking to the lander – scientists theorized that the problem may be that Mars Odyssey was not designed to communicate with Beagle 2. This theory was disproved when the sensitive 76-meter-diameter Lovell Telescope at the University of Manchester's Jodrell Bank Observatory also failed to find a signal.
  • If Beagle 2 did land safely it would need to almost immediately open itself up in order to collect power. If it failed to do so, it would quickly run out of battery power in the cold Martian night.

Updates

On January 7, 2004 Mars Express settled into its low 315 km orbit and started to look for Beagle 2. No trace of the lander was found. The most favorable conditions will occur January 13, 2004 and January 17, 2004. If Mars Express is not heard from at this time then the ground-based part of the mission will be lost.

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