by ESA via UK SEDS.
- SCIENCE Minister, Lord Sainsbury, today praised UK scientists and industry for their role in the successful completion of work on the Beagle 2 probe to Mars.
The Lander is today en route to Astrium, in Toulouse, France, where the Mars Express orbiter will assume its completion.
The European Space Agency (ESA) spacecraft will then be taken to Baikonur, in Kazakhstan, where it will blast-off on a Soyuz-Fregat launcher this summer on a six-month voyage to the Red Planet.
Lord Sainsbury said, “The successful completion of Beagle 2 is a tribute to the vision of the UK science community, the technical know-how of engineers from British industry and the faith of our European partners.
This is an important milestone in the history of the development of the Beagle 2 Lander. With it, the UK is playing a major role in the European Space Agency’s mission to Mars. Today marks the beginning of the next phase in this exciting project.”
The Beagle 2 probe is to look for signs of life on Mars. It will be thrust from the orbiter and parachute down to the surface of the planet. On touchdown, it will deploy
its robotic arm and paw which includes a
mole to burrow into the ground and collect soil samples.
These will be analysed for signs of past and present biological activity using the innovative Gas Analysis Package (GAP) developed by Professor Colin Pillinger’s team at the Open University. The Lander is also packing a suite of instruments that will measure the weather, including temperature, pressure and wind.
The Beagle 2 project is lead by the Open University, which has provided the science knowledge along with Astrium - the prime industrial contractor. It involves a consortium of academic institutions and industrial subcontractors, and funded by a unique public and private partnership.
The Mars Express spacecraft, part of ESA’s Horizons 2000 programme, is designed to take a payload of seven state-of-the-art
scientific instruments to orbit Mars as well as the Beagle 2 Lander. The orbiter instruments will record data for at least a Martian year, or 687 Earth days of which the Beagle 2 is design will operate for less than a third of that time span.
The satellite will also carry a data relay system for communicating with Earth, including the transfer of command and science data to and from Beagle 2.