It's not rocket science

June 25, 2004

Without doubt, a Beagle 3 mission should compete with other world-class projects ("Pillinger launches plea for Beagle 3 ", June 18). However, this time round we need a full evaluation of all the facts before the funding is committed.

In a Beagle 2 post-mortem press conference, Colin Pillinger put forward his initial vision for the next mission to Mars, which consisted of launching five Beagle 2 clones in the expectation that two of them would work. Had the community been aware that the principal investigator's own evaluation of Beagle 2 gave it only a 40 per cent chance of success, the agencies involved might have viewed the original project differently when weighing it up against the other demands on overstretched budgets.

Michael R. Merrifield
Nottingham University

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