Europe's Mars mission hit by energy failure: Russian space agency
MOSCOW (AFP) Aug 27, 2003
The European Space Agency's (ESA) unmanned mission to Mars is suffering from power shortages after its solar panels stopped functioning, the Russian space agency, Rosaviakosmos, said Wednesday.

Mars Express, which was launched from Russia's Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in June, has lost a quarter of its energy supply and will have to cut down power use, Rosaviakosmos officials told the RIA-Novosti news agency.

However, ESA experts believe that the glitch "does not significantly affect the progression of the flight programme and the mission should approach Mars in December," the officials said.

Mars Express was launched on June 2, heading a trio of European and US robot missions to the Red Planet that will, if things go well, be joined by a Japanese probe at the end of the year.

It is carrying Beagle-2, is a small stationary lander carrying instruments that seek to confirm suspicions, drawn from pictures by orbiting American probes, about the presence of water on Mars.

At present, the lander is attached to the belly of Mars Express. The two are scheduled to separate when they get close to their destination in December, and Beagle-2 is likely to land on December 25.