Although the first attempt to use NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter to communicate with the lander three hours later was unsuccessful, scientists and engineers are still awaiting the best Christmas present possible the first faint signal to tell them that Beagle 2 has become only the fourth spacecraft to make a successful landing on Mars.
"This is a bit disappointing, but it's not the end of the world," said Professor Colin Pillinger, lead scientist for the Beagle 2 project.
"We still have 14 contacts with Odyssey programmed into our computer and we also have the opportunity to communicate through Mars Express after 4 January."
The next window to receive confirmation that Beagle 2 has successfully landed and survived its first night on Mars will be between 10 pm and midnight (GMT) tonight, when its simple carrier signal (rather than the tune composed by Blur) may be picked up by Jodrell Bank radio observatory in Cheshire, UK. This has a much greater chance of success because the giant telescope is able to scan the entire side of the planet facing the Earth.
Another overflight by Mars Odyssey will take place around 18.15 GMT tomorrow evening, followed by daily opportunities to contact Beagle 2 via the Mars Odyssey spacecraft and the radio telescopes at Jodrell Bank and Stanford University in the United States.
There are several possible explanations for the failure of Odyssey to pick up Beagle 2's signal. Perhaps the most likely is that Beagle 2 landed off course, in an area where communication with Mars Odyssey was difficult, if not impossible. Another possibility is that the lander's antenna was not pointing in the direction of the orbiter during its brief passage over the landing site. If the onboard computer had suffered a glitch and reset Beagle 2's clock, the tw
Contact: Peter Barratt
Particle Physics & Astronomy Research Council