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B2MIN9: Beagle 2 teams continue efforts to communicate with the lander

Scientists are still waiting to hear from the Beagle 2 lander on Mars.

Two attempts to communicate with Beagle 2 during the last 24 hours first with the 250 ft (76 m) Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire, UK, and then this morning with the Mars Odyssey orbiter ended without receiving a signal.

Despite this outcome, two teams at the Beagle 2 Lander Operations Control Centre in Leicester are continuing to study all possible options to establish communications with the spacecraft.

Further opportunities to scan for a signal from Beagle 2 will be undertaken over the coming days. Tonight the radio telescopes at Jodrell Bank and Stanford University in California will again listen for the carrier signal from Beagle 2, while the next Mars Odyssey pass will take place tomorrow evening at 18.57 GMT.

Meanwhile, scientists are eagerly awaiting the arrival of the European Space Agency's Mars Express spacecraft in its operational polar orbit on 4 January. Mars Express was always intended to be the prime communication relay for Beagle 2, and the lander team is hopeful that a link can be established at that time if it has not already been achieved with Mars Odyssey.

"We need to get Beagle 2 into a period when it can broadcast for a much longer period," said Professor Colin Pillinger, Beagle 2 lead scientist. "This will happen around the 4 January after the spacecraft has experienced a sufficient number of communication failures to switch to automatic transmission mode."

Both Professor Pillinger and Professor David Southwood, ESA director of science, agreed that the best chance to establish communication with Beagle 2 would now seem to be through Mars Express.

At present, Mars Express is far from the planet and preparing to fire its engines for a major trajectory change that will move it into a polar orbit around the planet.

"We haven't yet played all our cards," said Professor Southwood. "With Ma
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Contact: Peter Barratt
Peter.Barratt@pparc.ac.uk
44-787-960-2899
Particle Physics & Astronomy Research Council
27-Dec-2003


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