Sun, Jan 11, 2004
The Dream Is Over?
It looks more and more like the ESA Mars lander "Beagle 2" has
been lost for good. Beagle's mothership, Mars Express, continues to
orbit the Red Plant in "listening-only" mode, hoping for signs of
life from the Beagle lander. So far, its attempts have been met
with only silence.
Beagle 2 hasn't been
heard from since it was ordered by controllers in Germany to begin
its landing sequence on Mars. Attempts by NASA's Mars Odyssey
failed to pick up any indication that the Beagle had survived the
plunge into the Martian atmosphere. Powerful radio telescopes on
Earth listened and heard nothing. They even scanned the Martian
surface, hoping to spot signs of faint radiation emanating from
Beagle. But those attempts were not successful.
"I think the only thing I can say to the whole team at this
stage is -- play to the final whistle. It only takes a fraction of
a second to score a goal," said Professor Colin Pellinger, chief
scientist on the Beagle 2 mission.
Despondency over the apparent failure of the Beagle to bark has
reached halfway around the world. Australian scientists at the New
Norcia listening station about 93 miles north of Perth say each day
that passes without some sign of life from Beagle means the chances
of raising it at all are more remote. "The prospects are getting
slimmer and slimmer by the day, but I am sure we are going to keep
looking for at least another week," said New Norcia station manager
Roly Morin. "Hopefully by next week they will decide whether they
will pursue it further, or concentrate on using the orbiter for the
experiments it is designed to do. I don't think we can try for
ever, but I am sure we will keep trying for at least another
And, yeah, there's a bit of jealousy on the part of Australian
scientists involved in the Mars Express mission when they see what
a great job the NASA rover Spirit has already come up with. "It was
a bit of a kick in the teeth – they are fantastic pictures,
and very good for the science community, but it would have been
nice to be first."
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