Brussels, 05 Jan 2004
Having still heard nothing from Beagle 2 since its arrival on Mars on 25 December, the team of scientists responsible for the lander say that the best hope of contacting it now lies with its mothership, Mars Express.
The Beagle 2 team has a number of theories as to why the spacecraft has failed to radio home, including the possibility that it was destroyed on impact with the red planet, but they insist that there is still hope.
'We haven't in any shape or form given up on Beagle 2,' said lead scientist Professor Colin Pillinger.
Mission manager Dr Mark Sims added: 'There are six or seven scenarios that we're still working through and we still can't eliminate any of those. We're still concentrating on both the communications and timing/software issues and working [...] on the basis that Beagle 2 is on the surface of Mars and for some reason is failing to talk to us.'
Mars Express, the European Space Agency (ESA) satellite currently in orbit around the red planet, will shortly begin making regular passes over the Beagle 2 landing site. As the prime communication link with the lander, Mars Express now represents the most likely source of contact.
The team hopes that Beagle 2 will switch to one of its backup communication modes. Various modes of communication can be attempted during passes by Mars Express, and while the satellite's first flybys will be almost directly overhead, thus reducing the length of communication time, later passes will be significantly longer.
The team has already received help in the search for Beagle 2 from a number of laboratories around the world. One such facility was the US national aeronautics and space administration's (NASA) jet propulsion laboratory (JPL), which, on 4 January, successfully landed its own spacecraft, Spirit, on the Martian surface.
Dr Sims highlighted the role that Sprit's mothership, Mars Odyssey, had played in the search for Beagle 2. 'I'd like to reiterate the international cooperation we've been getting in terms of looking for Beagle. In particular, the JPL team which has been working very strange hours supporting the Odyssey passes.'
'I'd like to give congratulations to NASA and the Spirit team for getting the lander down safely. We wish them every luck.' added Professor Pillinger.
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