Home>News Center>World

Possible sighting of Beagle probe
Updated: 2004-03-09 11:47

Beagle 2, the British space probe which disappeared as it descended towards Mars, may have been spotted on the surface of the Red Planet, scientists say.

No signal has been received from the craft since it was due to land on Christmas Day last year, despite various attempts by Mars orbiters and telescopes on Earth to make contact.

Artist's view of Beagle 2's airbags separating to release the lander on the Martian surface.
But photographic images of the area where Beagle 2 was to have come down show four bright spots, dubbed a "string of pearls" by scientists, which may be the remains of the probe.

"It could be the lander with its air bags and parachute," said Lutz Richter from the German Aerospace Center, who helped plan the Beagle 2 project as part of Europe's first solo mission to another planet.

However, Richter told a conference at the Royal Society in London Monday, the pictures were "nothing conclusive whatsoever."

Professor Colin Pillinger, the British scientist in charge of the Beagle 2 project, told the conference he doubted the image was the probe and was more likely to be "system noise" -- an error on the image.

The conference, which was called to discuss lessons learned from the Beagle 2 mission, also heard that 8 to 13 percent of the probe's suspected landing area was littered with craters and hills, making a safe landing difficult.

But Pillinger defended the decision to land the craft there.

"We chose the best landing space we could within the constraints put on us. Scientifically it gave us the best chance," he said.

Pillinger, an Open University professor of planetary research, also lamented what he said were a lack of funding for the Beagle 2 project and a secondary priority accorded to it by the European Space Agency.

He said the agency's primary aim for the mission which carried Beagle 2 to Mars was putting the Mars Express satellite in orbit.

A NASA mission to Mars landed two probes on the planet in January which have sent back revealing pictures of the planet's surface.

Pillinger also said he had received letters from dog owners informing him the choice of name for the probe was unfortunate.

"Beagles are notoriously difficult to control when let off the leash," he said.

"Perhaps Beagle 2 will surface when he is hungry."

  Today's Top News     Top World News

Top legislators consider amending constitution



Monitoring on foreign banks stepped up



Lee lets US Senate act as if HK was 51st state



Iraqi politicians sign interim constitution



China takes lead in SARS vaccine trials



US election: Kerry ready for another recount


  Possible sighting of Beagle probe
  Iraqi politicians sign interim constitution
  Haiti's interim president sworn in
  Top Iraq nuke scientist seeks UN probe
  Zimbabwe seizes US-registered plane
  Claim of Blair-guru relationship draws Downing Street snub
  Go to Another Section  
  Story Tools  
  Related Stories  
Still no signal from Mars probe on day three
Space controllers launch probe to Mars
  News Talk  
  The Human Rights Record of the United States in 2003