skymania astronomy news

New Beagles could be bound for Mars

Beagle mastermind Colin Pillinger today launched a fresh bid to land a UK probe on Mars and look for life.
The mutton-chopped professor said that ideally he would like to send TWO new Beagles into space by the end of the decade – and this time his robots will be a rovers.
They will have wheels just like Doctor Who’s metal dog K9 so that they can run about on the Red Planet to test for signs of aliens.
The professor’s first craft, Beagle 2, carried to Mars by Europe’s Mars Express mother ship, crashed on Christmas Day 2003.
It is thought unusually thin air conditions caused the probe’s parachutes to fail.
An inquiry criticised the £45million mission for being done too cheaply and in a rush. But it won massive support from the British people.
Prof Pillinger told an international meeting of the Mars Society at Swindon, Wilts, that his mission was vital to encourage a new generation of youngsters to take up science – and that was important for bodies like the NHS.
This time he wants to send two craft to double his chances of success.
And he is ready to link up with Nasa or the Russian space program if it will help get his craft to fly.
Prof Pillinger called current European plans for exploring the solar system “a mish-mash.” And he said: “It is not beyond the capabilities of the UK to go it alone.”
He said: “It has go to be a strong dynamic program so that the public who pay for it find it exciting and can believe in going to Mars.”
The professor, from the Open University, added that methane detected in the Martian atmosphere was indicated the possibility of life. He said: “We have to get back to find out why there is methane on Mars.”

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