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Inquiry Fails To Find Reason For Failure Of Beagle 2 Mars Mission

into the abyss
London (AFP) Aug 24, 2004
Any one of a number of technical malfunctions might have caused the loss of Beagle 2, the ill-fated British space probe that vanished while attempting to land on Mars, an investigation found on Tuesday.

A six-month inquiry by project organisers, their second attempt to discover what went wrong with the mission, was unable to pinpoint why the tiny craft vanished shortly before it landed on Mars on Christmas Day last year.

In May, Professor Colin Pillinger, the British scientist who masterminded the project, said unusually thin air over the landing site caused by dust storms was the most likely reason behind its presumed destruction.

This was still a possible reason for the probe's loss, the new report said, explaining that instruments on the Mars Express spacecraft which carried Beagle 2 to the Red Planet showed signs of unusually low atmospheric density.

"Improved characterisation of the Martian atmosphere is, in the view of the Beagle 2 team, critical to the success of future missions," the investigation concluded.

However the report said that despite rigorous testing, a number of potential systems malfunctions had not been ruled out.

These included electronic failures, a puncture on one of Beagle's cushioning gas bags, a failure of the craft to deploy its instruments, damage to the heat shield and a broken communications antenna.

It was also possible, although unlikely, that Beagle 2 unexpectedly hit one of a pair of craters discovered in the predicted landing site, the report said.

The miniature probe had been due to land on Mars on December 25 last year before flipping open like a pocket watch and beginning its work, but it disappeared without trace.

In contrast, a pair of US probes sent to Mars around the same time landed perfectly and sent back streams of data.

The earlier report into Beagle's loss criticised severe organisational failures with the mission, which had been intended to search for evidence of life on Mars.

Such were the worries about the mission ahead of its launch that one leading member of the European Space Agency said he had wondered whether it might have been better cancelled, the investigation in May said.

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Beagle 2: A Fortunate Failure
Honolulu - Jan 13, 2004
Everyone interested in Mars exploration should now take a few minutes off from looking at those fine photos of Gusev Lava Flow sent back by the Spirit rover. It is time to fall on our knees, face toward Memphis and give thanks to Elvis that the British Mars lander Beagle 2 has failed. I can't think of any possible event more potentially disastrous for the future of unmanned planetary exploration than the success of this particular mission writes Jeffrey F. Bell.

UK Govt and ESA Keep Beagle 2 Failure Report Secret
London (UPI) May 24, 2004
The public may never be told why Britain's first Martian probe - Beagle 2 - disappeared last Christmas as it was about to land on Mars. Investigators have not been able to pinpoint a single failure or shortcoming of the $90 million probe, reporters were told at a London news conference Monday.

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