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Construction Begins on Beagle 2

timothy posted more than 12 years ago | from the planetary-galapagos dept.

Space 171

Bonker writes "CNN reports that Beagle 2, a lander that's part of ESA's next Mars mission, is beginning construction in England. The lander will be constructed in clean-room conditions to avoid being contaminated with any kind of terrestrial life so that it can more accurately determine if there is or was any kind of martian life once it arrives."

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Oooh! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4023961)

A FP for gazbo!

my adventure (-1)

confucio-licious (555476) | more than 12 years ago | (#4023967)

I was a victim of my own naivete, when, while extremely intoxicated, I walked into a tattoo/piercing parlor, horribly ignorant of the "we do surgery too!" sign above and to the left of me. An Overlooked detail and a bottle of Makers Mark; a cocktail of disaster when combined. Without hesitation, I, in a drunken stupor, mistakenly asked to have my LABIA pierced...now, given the fact that I am a male, the guy doing the piercing was understandibly concerned with my request. "You know, I am assuming that you're sure you REALLY want to go through with this procedure". "Just Do it, man!" I demanded. Now, first of all, It's one thing to go into his parlor drunk and mispronounce a simple word, but not knowing he was also a licensed plastic surgeon ....how could I possibly miss that little factoid? Well after I awakened from the anasthetics, the mirror I was facing reflected a dissappointing portrait of my lower half, exposing the unexpected, yet, terribly noticeable mutilation I had undergone. However, I was thrilled to know that I was still in posession of my previous anatomy, placed just so in a smuckers jar filled with ice and water. I apologized to the piercing guy and explained to him that it was a silly misunderstanding, and that I was in desperate need of my previous extremities. We laughed, and laughed. Afterward the doctor surgically replaced my reproductive organs. In a display of common hospitality, he let me keep the labia I briefly sported for good luck....I even got it to hang on my neclace for a while, just like a keepsake! I never did get around to piercing my labret, though.

Electrics? (5, Funny)

mccalli (323026) | more than 12 years ago | (#4023968)

Beagle 2, a lander that's part of ESA's next Mars mission, is beginning construction in England.

Please tell me it doesn't use Lucas electrics.
Please tell me it doesn't use Lucas electrics.
Please tell me it doesn't use Lucas electrics.
Please tell me it doesn't use Lucas electrics.

This could go very wrong...

Cheers,
Ian

Re: Electrics? (1)

A Rabid Tibetan Yak (525649) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024066)

Please tell me it doesn't use Lucas electrics.

Please tell me that NASA's been learning its metrics...

Re: Electrics? (1)

SweetCyanide (205542) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024195)

ESA is the European Space Agency. We're well accustomed to using metric over here.

Re:Electrics? (1)

spurious cowherd (104353) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024171)

Mmmmm.....Lucas

Known in the trade as "The Prince of Darkness"

Re:Electrics? (2, Funny)

C A S S I E L (16009) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024406)

I believe they're having some teething problems with the alternator, but apparently the headlamps and indicators have worked flawlessly.

Contamination (1)

MoonFog (586818) | more than 12 years ago | (#4023969)

"We don't want to contaminate the planets we go to," said John Bennett They already have tons of junk flying around in space, and some have crashed on mars. Let`s just hope this one actually land on mars and not just make a new hole in the surface. Maybe they should send up a clean up crew along with it..

Re:Contamination (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4024024)

I'm afraid that the anal probe the aliens gave me has contaminated my anus.

Please tell me whom I should contact in order to have it decontaminated.

-Jeff

Re:Contamination (2, Informative)

corleth (118672) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024044)

Who's they? This is the first UK mission to Mars and we stick to metric in science. The main worry is the launch system, as the last European Mars mission to be launched by Russia didn't make it outside of our atmosphere. :(

Not UKian, European (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4024257)

*UK* mission? This is a mission by the ESA -- the E stands for European.

Re:Contamination (1)

reallocate (142797) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024111)

Huh? Clean-room construction has been routine for years. You don't want terrestrial contamiination to distort findings on the target planet's surface; you also don't want terrestrial dust gumming up the probe's works.

Relatively few probes have targeted Mars, and a number have landed successfully.

Re:Contamination (1)

vrmlknight (309019) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024213)

one question how do you get it to the launch pad so that it does not come into contact with anything earth related?

Re:Contamination (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4024288)

As the article reports, humanity has been in contact with Mars since 1974, and people now speculate that contamination on the Martian surface may already have happened.

Re:Contamination (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4024203)

"We don't want to contaminate the planets we go to,"
We learnt that from our early visits to North America, look what we spawned! seesh, the French have never forgiven us ;)

What's new? (2, Insightful)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 12 years ago | (#4023975)

Read the article but I couldn't see how this will do a better job at finding life than previous probes sent to Mars?

We've looked for life since the Viking probes in the 70's and it wouldn't surprise me if they'll send yet another one after this to "check for life so we're really, *really* sure nothing is there before we send any actual humans".

Re:What's new? (2)

MoonFog (586818) | more than 12 years ago | (#4023980)

Wondering about the same thing. Haven't they send up enough probes ? I mean .. isn't it time to try out something new ? If sending humans isn't safe enoug yet, stop spending the money on these probes and use them in developing safe means for people to travel up there. I'm no rocket scientist, but they must surely have enough knowledge about mars now to start planning an actuall landing with people instead of robots.

Re:What's new? (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4023988)

WHy do we have an acronym for IANAL but not IANRS (rocket scientist)? IANALZ (Linux zealot) IANAKW (Karma Whore) IANARP (Real Programmer) IANAWU (Windows user) The government still has more acronyms than we do, we can't just let that happen. (TGSHMATWDWCJLTH)

Re:What's new? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4023987)

I guess this time they are looking for fossils, rather than live organisms and their metabolites in the soil.

Re:What's new? (2, Interesting)

flyingdisc (598575) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024013)

Each mission you get a chance to change what you are sending up. Previous missions took basic data - photgraphs, had rovers, basic chemical sensors etc. Based on what you've learnt from the previous missions you can start to look at the details. We're interested on whether there is life on mars so this mission will be tooled up for that.

Amongst other things (recording the environmental conditions) Beagle 2 will be looking specifically for the presence of water (a keen idicator of whether life is possible). Sensors will also be measuring the abundance and complexity of organic compounds in the soils.

The probe will be equiped with an arm capable or testing and extracting sample from the rock and dust around the landing site. This is a different approach from the netlander mission (NASA based) which will launch later in 2003, which will be armed with 2 rovers.

There is much hype in the uk at least about the amount of scientific payload the machine will carry. If they pull it off, it looks set to inform on a whole new area of our knowledge of mars.

Re:What's new? (2)

uncoveror (570620) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024268)

The Viking probe did discover life on Mars, and NASA has been trying to cover it up. Read about it here, [uncoveror.com] and read the follow-up here. [uncoveror.com]

Re:What's new? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4024650)

The whole set of science instruments are new, I know I am working on the ground segment. Check out www.beagle2.com to see what science will be carried out

A wise decision... (1)

The_Guv'na (180187) | more than 12 years ago | (#4023976)


"We don't want to contaminate the planets we go to," said John Bennett, a team scientist with ESA's Mars Express project.

Yeah, bacteria could wreak havoc on a planet like Mars. And I guess that means a manned mission is outta the question... Just look what we've done to this planet!

Ali

Martians (0, Offtopic)

JPriest (547211) | more than 12 years ago | (#4023979)

Martians are humans that move to mars end evolve to the conditions there, then later travel back in time to make crop circles and anal probe the unsuspecting folks from Iowa.

Implying Bacteria found weren't Martian? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4023982)

Are they implying that the bacteria collected by the last probe could have been from Earth? First they didn't want to admit it was even bacteria, now they think it was from here?

Re:Implying Bacteria found weren't Martian? (2, Informative)

SweetCyanide (205542) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024224)

Firstly is wasn't collected from mars, the rock fell to earth and is believed to be from mars..

Secondly, it didn't contain bacteria, but what is claimed to be fossilised evidence of bacteria.

Thirdly, the evidence is merely suggestive, but far from incontravertable, of alien life.

Think realistically (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4023986)

You know that if they do find life they'll blame it on "earthly contamination" no matter how clean it was so these clean room conditions don't do anything but waste time and money. Why not just let it sit in the corner of a nuclear waste site for a couple months and have that nuke off any germs.

Also space is so inhospitable what with all the radiation, lack of resources (such as air, water and nutrients), the burn-up during re-entry into the martian atmosphere etc... I think that if any life can make it to Mars we should be impressed and should study the phenomenon. And if we brought life to Mars and it flourished that would finally shut-up the "only-Earth can support life" people.

Who cares about contaminating Mars? Europeans contaminated the Americas with foreign animals and diseases etc... and the Americas reciprocated. But enough survived and we're all still here. The truth is every footstep you take affects the world around you by killing off blades of grass. We can't help this, we can simply do our best to create as much as we destroy and learn in the process.

Personally though, I would much rather see a sustained effort to colonize the moon before we spend months flying people to Mars to collect rocks.

Re:Think realistically (2)

larien (5608) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024023)

IIRC, the Beagle is intended to search for various chemical using spectroscopes; these organic chemicals are part of the requirement for life (as we know it, in any case). Traces of these chemicals could potentially survive radiation, vacuum and heat, even if "life" doesn't.

Re:Think realistically (3, Funny)

Lao-Tzu (12740) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024054)

You know that if they do find life they'll blame it on "earthly contamination" no matter how clean it was so these clean room conditions don't do anything but waste time and money. Why not just let it sit in the corner of a nuclear waste site for a couple months and have that nuke off any germs.

If TV has taught me anything, it's that radiation makes things grow. It's people like you who are responsible for us having six foot tall germs chasing people down the street, devouring houses and apartment buildings and leaving a trail of green slime. I hate green slime.

Re:Think realistically (1)

corleth (118672) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024059)

You know that if they do find life they'll blame it on "earthly contamination" no matter how clean it was so these clean room conditions don't do anything but waste time and money. Why not just let it sit in the corner of a nuclear waste site for a couple months and have that nuke off any germs.

That doesn't always work. Microorganisms can thrive in high radiation environments, as has been shown by studies at Sellafield.

-Karl

Re:Think realistically (2)

DrVxD (184537) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024108)

> Europeans contaminated the Americas with foreign animals and diseases etc..
Don't forget caucasians. They were our fault too...

Its hard to know what to say. (2, Troll)

palfreman (164768) | more than 12 years ago | (#4023992)

Normally I laugh at NASA doing this kind of thing - partly because it's over in America and it isn't my money being shot into space. But seeing the European Space Agency is planning a Mars trip - just as you or I may plan a booze-cruise to Calais - just makes me feel extremely distant from the whole EU/United Europe nonsense.

You may think this is a troll - I suppose it is a little bit - but surely you must be able to see the absurdity in this. All along some Europeans - particularly the French, although there is much to admire about them themselves - have felt a profound jellously about America and in his case, the American Space program. A sensible approach would be to let the Americans spend the money, then when it becomes commercial feasible people in Europe will start running commercial services up their anyway: after all the Russians already are, if only into near orbit.

But no, the EU has to have its own space programme, even though it could never keep up with either the Russians or the Americans. I don't so much mind having to pay for it pointlessly - there are plenty of other things I get taxed for pointlessly. It's the pseudo-prestige they get from it, as though somehow they're playing with the big boys now.

Re:Its hard to know what to say. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4024005)

I don't so much mind having to pay for it pointlessly - there are plenty of other things I get taxed for pointlessly.

As a European I'm all for reducing pointless use of my tax money, but let's start by dismantling most of our armed forces and government bureaucracy first. Space exploration is science and saying that science, especially fundamental science, should get even less money than it gets now is simply uncultured, penny-pinching moron mentality of a middle class yob who's content with his life consisting of a wife, 2.5 kids, large Volvo and a house in the suburbia.

Re:Its hard to know what to say. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4024095)

a middle class yob who's content with his life consisting of a wife, 2.5 kids, large Volvo and a house in the suburbia.

Tjenare, hur är läget? ;-)

Re:Its hard to know what to say. (1)

Hrshgn (595514) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024135)

let's start by dismantling most of our armed forces and government bureaucracy first

And let's not forget those agriculture subsidies.

Re:Its hard to know what to say. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4024143)

> but let's start by dismantling most of our armed forces...

Absolutlety! Now is a great time to get rid of those expensive old armed forces, what with the world being such a safe place these days.

God! Some of you people are living in cloud cuckoo land.

Re:Its hard to know what to say. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4024175)

And some of you people are living in a dystopia where evil communis... uh, evil islamic people are lurking everywhere just looking for an opportunity to destroy the great western culture.

Did you read my post? I proposed dismantling most of our armed forces, not totally abolishing the venerable military tradition of teaching young men how to kill effectively and without remorse.

Just how many times since the WWII have European armies been engaged in real combat? Ok, UK went to the Falklands and to the Gulf. The cumbersome military machine designed to counter a massive Soviet invasion is an atrociously expensive relic from the Cold War and should be radically cut in size.

Re:Its hard to know what to say. (3, Insightful)

Phillip P Barnett (250918) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024015)


I think you'll find that the GNP and population of the combined EU nations is approximately equivalent to that of the United States. Our technical expertise is pretty much equivalent (we're hardly the Third World)
The question, therefore, is why on earth shouldn't we keep up with the Russians or Americans? Russia's hardly in great shape (no disrespect to their pioneering work in the past) and the US's space program has likewise seen better days.

Re:Its hard to know what to say. (1)

palfreman (164768) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024089)

It's a smaller example of a large principle at work, namely the European governments and the EU wasting our money (no, my money) on pointless things designed to solely to make them look good.

You may think that the EU, for its large physical number of people and its combined GDP of almost that of the US, can cream off some of that GDP, and granted we do have a great deal of technical expertise in wasting money pointlessly, not just by firing it into space. But that doesn't make it a pleasing thought.

The ESA / EU/ EU governments shouldn't try to keep up with America or Russia because it isn't a race, and firing peoples' money pointlessly into space has to be about the least efficient way of burning though other peoples' money imaginable.

What are they planning, to raise the 12 stars on Mars and claim it as a colony? To use it as a base for firing missiles at America? Establish diplomatic relations with underground Martians, then launch a trade embargo on red sand? All and none probably, and however you look at it big EU spacerockets are just plain laughable.

Re:Its hard to know what to say. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4024215)

"EU spacerockets are just plain laughable."

What would be really funny is if the Argentinians got there first.

Re:Its hard to know what to say. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4024219)

Nobody gives a fsck about a large military or fancy big toys, we have to keep a health service and welfare state languishing!

Know your facts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4024545)

ESA does not fall under the umbrella of the European Union. Each european nation decides on its own how much to contribute to ESA, and even (up to a point) what that money is to be spent on. ESA, in turn, spends (almost) exactly the amount of money that was received from each country in that country.

France alone is responsible for roughly half the ESA budget. As a result, France also has a fairly large space industry (ever been to CNES in Toulouse?).

Why does France think it is necessary to compete in space? Well, for one thing, it is economically attractive to do, but it also lessens our dependence on the americans. Thanks (in large part) to the efforts of France europe now has its own spy satellites (Helios), and soon we will have our own GPS-like system (Galileosat). And if you want to do anything in space, having your own launcher is obviously required.

You should not complain about 'europe' spending money on something you do not personally want - it is your own government doing it!

Re:Its hard to know what to say. (2)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024037)

Research and science receive only a very small part of our national budget. Looking at our national (Dutch) budget and the EU one, I can easily point out loads of stupid and/or wasteful things we are spending tax Euro's on, Euro's that would be much better spent on scientific research.

That doesn't mean that Europe would not be better off trying to do different things in space, or joining existing programs, instead of copying the Americans' and Russians' efforts. That is simply good economic sense: do what you are good at, and buy what others are better at. Rather than design their own rocket to get something into space (like the Ariadne), Europe could just use existing and superior Russian Proton rockets or even a Shuttle. The money saved can go towards research in areas that we excel in (don't ask me which those areas are).

In the end, I do not think spending tax money on science is wasteful.

Re:Its hard to know what to say. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4024047)

research in areas that we excel in (don't ask me which those areas are).

Are you trying to tell us that there's actually serious research being done in Europe? I thought that a socialist society doesn't exactly encourage creative thought...

Re:Its hard to know what to say. (1)

Ted Maul (582118) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024093)

IHBT but:

Computers, the Web, antibiotics, supersonic passenger flight, espresso coffee, lager, LSD ... need I go on?

Re:Its hard to know what to say. (1)

Ashran (107876) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024120)

The web was invented at CERN, thats in Switzerland..
Everyone these days knows about the Internet and the World-Wide Web, but not everyone knows that the World-Wide Web was invented at CERN.
Where the quote comes from [web.cern.ch]

Re:Its hard to know what to say. (1)

palfreman (164768) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024495)

Switzerland is not a member of the EU and does not participate in the EU Space programme.

Re:Its hard to know what to say. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4024104)

I am glad to hear that your educational systems works just fine, especially in teaching you about other nations. Never again will I call an american "ignorant" and "arrogant". I'm sorry I ever did ;-)

Re:Its hard to know what to say. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4024226)

Yeah... it's not like anything decent has come out of Europe for 250 years! At least CERN did us the great favour of giving Americans a medium to take the pee out of us ;)

Re:Its hard to know what to say. (2)

Zarhan (415465) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024058)

Rather than design their own rocket to get something into space (like the Ariadne), Europe could just use existing and superior Russian Proton rockets or even a Shuttle. The money saved can go towards research in areas that we excel in (don't ask me which those areas are).

From the article:

In less than six months, the finished Beagle 2 will join the Mars Express satellite on a trip to the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, from where the pair should launch in May or June, ESA scientists said.

So, they are indeed launching this stuff with russian rockets. I think they have done the same thing in the past with other scientific projects (Such as Cluster II satellites). So it seems that even ESA itself is starting to see the russian superiority when it comes to lifting stuff up - If someone else buys launch services from Arianespace instead - well, kudos to the marketing :)

Re:Its hard to know what to say. (1)

corleth (118672) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024146)

I don't think it's so much about russian superiority, as about the fact the it's simply much cheaper to launch from Russia. The russian economy is in such dire straits that they can undercut anyone.

-k

Re:Its hard to know what to say. (3, Informative)

Soft (266615) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024064)

Research and science receive only a very small part of our national budget. Looking at our national (Dutch) budget and the EU one, I can easily point out loads of stupid and/or wasteful things we are spending tax Euro's on, Euro's that would be much better spent on scientific research.

I fully agree with this. The original poster (excluding a troll) may be mistaking this mission with the whole man-in-space mumbo-jumbo (I'm all for colonizing space, but not the ISS-billion-government-dollar way). However:

do what you are good at, and buy what others are better at. Rather than design their own rocket to get something into space (like the Ariadne), Europe could just use existing and superior Russian Proton rockets or even a Shuttle. The money saved can go towards research in areas that we excel in (don't ask me which those areas are).

We excel in rocket science. Serious. The Ariane 5 can launch 6 tons in GTO, and the next version due this fall can do 8. Proton cannot do that AFAIK and using the horrendously exepnsive Shuttle to save money would be ludicrous at best. The next Atlas 5 and Delta 4 will match this kind of performance and are possibly easier to scale up, but are not there yet.

Disagree (1)

Betcour (50623) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024080)

If we had done that Airbus (and it's about 50% market share) wouldn't exists nowadays. Why bother make our own plane if we can just buy some overpriced Boeings ?

Re:Disagree (1)

palfreman (164768) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024112)

If we had done that Airbus (and it's about 50% market share) wouldn't exists nowadays. Why bother make our own plane if we can just buy some overpriced Boeings?

Er, because when you take into account the many billions of taxpayers money Airbus has had for free, Boings work out as much cheaper?

As with the ESA, the only reason for Airbus is the jelousy felt by European government employees at the site of visible American success. So they threw tax money at the various contractors and for those billions they got planes which people in other countries now buy - in otherwords, a significant transfer of resources from European taxpayers to the world airline travalling public. Great. I'm sure that was worthwhile.

Re:Disagree (1)

reallocate (142797) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024126)

>> "...a significant transfer of resources from European taxpayers to the world airline travalling public."

A non-European jumps in: Didn't that also involve a transfer of resources (cash) from airlines to Europe? I don't recall seeing a sign on any Airbus I've flown that says "A donation from the people of Europe"?

Re:Disagree (1)

palfreman (164768) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024294)

Yeah but a lot less than the cost of the plane, when you count the capital costs absorbed by airbus over the last 30 odd years. Boing raises its own money by comparison.

Re:Disagree (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4024602)

No it doesn't. Boeing owes its existence to large defence contracts. Many count that as government sponsoring.

Re:Disagree (2)

uradu (10768) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024643)

> Er, because when you take into account the many billions of taxpayers
> money Airbus has had for free, Boings work out as much cheaper?

This is such a tired argument, it should have been buried long, long, long ago. Boeing would be nowhere today without the juicy government contracts of WWII. The 747 (in 1969) was the first major new development at Boeing, most previous airliners being based on variations of the B-17 and B-29. Let's not even talk about their new military contracts since they've become THE aircraft company of the USA, or their NASA contracts. You want an aircraft manufacturer that tax money built? Boeing has Airbus beat anyday.

Re:Its hard to know what to say. (2)

snake_dad (311844) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024149)

Dutch space achievements: look up the ANS and IRAS sattelites. Also try to google some info on the radio telescopes in Westerbork. I'm not really up to speed on current projects though.

Re:Its hard to know what to say. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4024631)

And while you are at it, visit ESTEC in Noordwijk (major european space center). It has a nice visitor complex, and at certain times you can take a guided tour through the testing facilities.

If you do, and you come to the thermal vacuum facility, take a look through the windows of the data handling room. The software you see running on those machines was written by me ;-)

Re:Its hard to know what to say. (1)

tsa (15680) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024293)

Ariadne is in many ways superior to the Space shuttle. It's cheaper, just as reliable and can take more cargo.

Ariane v Shuttle... (2)

MosesJones (55544) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024068)

Its cheaper to launch a sat into space via ESA than NASA. There are other options out there that are cheaper than ESA but insurance isn't too bad now that there have been successful launches since the coding f*ck up.

So it isn't just "oh look we have to do it" its more "shit they charge through the nose for this stuff, we need a cheaper way".

Re:Its hard to know what to say. (2)

shd99004 (317968) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024081)

Sure the european space programme could keep up with the american one, but it would take many years and considerable amounts of money. They had much bigger plans back in the, say, 80's, with space station and space shuttles. The space station became a part of the ISS and the shuttle (Hermes) was scrapped. Now they keep it up for some sort of pride and prestige.

I agree though that the future in space belongs more to commercial interests than these bureaucratic moneyeating government space agencies. Maybe, just maybe, will govts take "us" as far as to Mars, but no further. Maybe I'm wrong but I believe that private companies will provide space travel and so on, for scientists, tourists, settlers, mining companies and so on.

Re:Its hard to know what to say. (2, Interesting)

corleth (118672) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024131)

Now they keep it up for some sort of pride and prestige.

... and also because the principal of funding science without obvious immediate returns is still alive and well. The great thing about bureaucratic funding of science is that money can actually go to where it is needed for scientific advance, rather than to where there is obvious and immediate financial reward. It's important to note that governments do not come up with these missions. The missions are designed by the scientists, and whether or not a mission is funded is more a matter of those scientists convincing those bodies that fund their science to send enough money their way. Under normal circumstances a government will hardly intervene.

...the shuttle (Hermes) was scrapped.

The shuttle was scrapped because it was found to be more expensive than traditional rocket launches, as NASA has discovered to its cost. :(

... the future in space belongs more to commercial interests than these bureaucratic moneyeating government space agencies.

Maybe, eventually, commercial interests will dominate. However, for the time being there is no profit in planetary exploration. Also, I don't think that it's necessarily justified that government space agencies would be any more moneyeating than corporate ones. No shareholders or overpaid directors for a start. Okay, a government space agency might be less likely to cut corners by getting inferior components, in which case they would probably end up spending more, but I think that this is a good thing.

-Karl

Re:Its hard to know what to say. (3, Insightful)

corleth (118672) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024092)

All along some Europeans - particularly the French, although there is much to admire about them themselves - have felt a profound jellously about America and in his case, the American Space program

Sorry to start this reply on a sour note, but that is a largely incorrect statement. Jealousy of America as a whole is not a something I encounter much in the UK, or the rest of Europe. Distrust and incredulity, whether justified or not, are at least as common. There is a fair amount of respect for NASA and its science, as the US space programme has done some wonderful things. In particular, the willingness of the US government to release all the data from NASA's planetary missions to the international science community is much appreciated. I hope the ESA will maintain a similar policy.

On to the space programme though. The truth is that a united European science-driven space programme would have been impossible in the past. This was not so much because of a lack of will or experience in the science community, in fact, many European scientists have had important and even leading roles in NASA missions. Not was it a lack of money, as the European economy is similar is size to the United States and also tends to have slightly higher taxes. It was mostly due to a lack of a cohesive structure allowing nations to pool their resources. Only over the past decade or so have we seen this degree of unity, and it looks set to continue into the future.

You wonder why the Europeans should bother to have a science-drive space exploration programme? Well, space exploration slowed down considerably after the 1970s, what with the end of lunar exploration and the shuttle tragedy. As a result, planetary science went into a decline and many scientists decided that it was no longer possible to rely on data collected by NASA. Although this has changed somewhat over recent years, NASA still has problems. The ISS is severely underfunded and is not living anywhere near to its potential. The Bush administration has no interest in any space science that is unprofitable, with the possible exception of the goal to get an American on Mars. Also, several missions have been lost due to the smaller-faster-cheaper-"far more likely to crash" approach in the 1990s, although it has to be said that some, particularly Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Pathfinder, have been extremely successful.

So, we're left with two options: (1) To let NASA continue along its current course, with the possibility that space exploration will decline once again, or (2) To start planetary exploration independently, giving more data to the international science community and providing NASA with some competition. The latter of these points is highly important, as the United States, as with any free-market economy, seems to thrive on competition. It wouldn't surprise me if the current European interest in Mars causes NASA to re-double its efforts to get a human on another world, and good luck to them!

Of course, you might not think that space exploration is at all important. If that is a case, we've got a completely different argument on our hands.

-Karl

Dr Karl Mitchell
Planetary Science Research Group,
Environmental Science Dept.,
Lancaster University, UK

Re:Its hard to know what to say. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4024134)

First Point. The EU is far, far, far richer than Russia these days, keeping up with them is not an issue. The cold war is long over, my friend. Besides, we have used Russian engines to launch satellites in the recent past - we work with them.

Second point. Who says the Americans are the best technologically any more? For example, the Space shuttle, though useful, is grossly inefficient and expensive to run.

Rather than European jealousy, I detect American arrogance.

BTW. From a tax/spend point of view why don't ask your paranoid government why America is able to spend 400bn on weapons (more than virtually all other counries put together) whilst denying free state-funded healthcare to the average American citizen?

Re:Its hard to know what to say. (2)

sunking2 (521698) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024434)

Rather than European jealousy, I detect American arrogance

Actually, I think it's European arrogance not allowing you to detect your jealousy.

Let the flames begin....

Think about the long-term benefits (3, Interesting)

marm (144733) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024303)

A sensible approach would be to let the Americans spend the money, then when it becomes commercial feasible people in Europe will start running commercial services up their anyway

So you've never heard of Arianespace then? Arianespace has over 50% of the world's commercial launch market. That sounds kinda commercially feasible to me.

And the reason? Simple. The Ariane rockets get satellites into space faster, with less hassle, and more reliably than anyone else. Which means that when you add up the total costs, Ariane also gets them into orbit cheaper than anyone else (although the Russians are competitive, and currently have a less-full launch schedule, which is why the Beagle 2 is scheduled to launch on a Russian rocket). The US doesn't even come close, mostly due to reliance on the horrendously-expensive Shuttle and the resulting negative impact that has had on the Atlas and Delta launch programmes.

The EU is up with the best in terms of unmanned space vehicle technlogy too - as an example, the Huygens lander that is part of the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn and Titan was developed and built in the UK, and in 2000, Europe finally supplied over 50% of the world's geostationary communication satellites.

NASA and the rest of the US space industry has talked for some years about doing it 'faster, cheaper, better' but right now, the Europeans are walking the walk rather than talking the talk and are reaping the benefits.

However, outside the space industry itself the European space programme has an image problem - as demonstrated by your post, even Europeans have no idea how well the European space industry is doing. This, in turn, has a negative impact on future sales of satellites and launch services. What it needs is good PR, and the best way of doing that is by headline-grabbing space science programmes, and Beagle 2 is a good example. Think of it as a long-term marketing investment by European governments. What is spent now on space science projects will, if the mission is successful, repay itself many times in the future in terms of sales of satellites and launch services and the tax revenues that are derived from that, not to mention the effect it has on overall national prestige and worldwide perception as leaders in technology, which has other spinoff benefits.

The Americans and Russians have understood this for decades, which is why there has been continued investment in space science programmes of limited immediate economic benefit in these countries, and why you have this distorted view of the world in which American and Russian space technology is far superior to everyone else's.

Just because you are unable to see short-term economic benefit does not mean that such economic benefit will not happen later and perhaps indirectly: all it shows it that you are blinkered by short-termism. Sadly, such views are common and are in some ways the biggest blight on the Western way of life, but I'll save that for another rant.

Yea, OK... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4024009)

Way to go, you unwashed barbarians. I'm willing to bet anyone here that when this thing is finished they completely screw the pooch on the transport method and come crawling to the USian (fuck you) space agency to help out.

Just stick to whinging, Europe. It's what you're best at. Love,

-Jeff

What's New (5, Interesting)

barberio (42711) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024010)

The major thing about this mission that is new is that Beagle 2 contains an automated MassSpec. These things are normaly huge, and would have been imposable to get to mars at the time of Viking. But the Beagle 2 designers have worked on miniturizing and compacting one into the space and wieght available.

This is where the "Beagle 2 will look for life" is coming from. Viking told us general stuff, Rover gave us Geology, Beagle 2 will go for an indepth investigation of exactly what the soil in the area it lands is composed of.

Re:What's New (1)

Erik_ (183203) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024077)

If the Beagle contains the MassSpec, it's just normal you want to insure that the lander will be constructed in a clean-room conditions.
Then again, I tought that all satelites and landers where created in clean-room conditions...

Re:What's New (1)

Hrshgn (595514) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024162)

This depends on what you define as a clean room. There are different classes of clean rooms defined by the amount of particles flying around. I would guess that normal satellite construction is just done under sterile conditions in big hangars. This is far from the real clean rooms where all the people wear whole-body protection suits and which cost several million euros per square metre.

Mass Spec (2)

sam_handelman (519767) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024194)

An ordinary Mass Spec need not be assembled in clean room conditions - it may be industry practice anyway. It wouldn't hurt to do so, and if you were prepared to announce the discovery of martian life, I'd certainly keep the internal components as clean as possible to avert any accusations of contamination. However, for most Mass Spec this is not necesarry - the weekend before last we disassembled a Mass Spec, put it back together again - we washed the exterior surface of the rods with isopropyl alchohol, since they needed cleaning, and we avoided getting fingerprints on anything, but otherwise we just put whatever components we were disassembling down on the (fairly dirty, actually) lab bench, and now it works fine.

My experience is entirely with GC (gas chromatograph) Mass Spec, but basically, in order for something to show up in your detector, it has to be vaporised. Gunk and dead cells that accrue, even on the internal surfaces, of the Mass Spec components can alter some component's magnetic properties (which must be exquisitely precise) but, generally, don't get vaporised, have no net charge and can't be pulled to the detector.

Of course, if you're sifting the soil for every known biological molecule, and thus trying every possible charge/mass ratio, the risk that some contaminant WILL spontaneously vaporise (especially after whatever radioactive abuse it encountered during space travel, and presumably cooking up to a fair temperature on re-entry) is, I suppose, considerable.

The sewage-treatment plant engineer (1)

Latent Heat (558884) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024405)

Gilbert Levin developed the labeled release technique to assay bacteria in sewage-treatment plants. The labeled-release experiment was the controversial part of Viking and Levin has Web pages proclaiming that life had been detected, and if people are not so sure, he is telling us what experiment to fly next.

LR (labeled release) works by feeding the bugs radioactive food, which causes them to blow radioactive bathtub bubbles, which are in turn detected by a Geiger counter. It is supposed to work at much lower levels of bacteria and much more quickly than streaking culture plates and waiting for colonies to grow. One of the co-experiments on Viking involved some kind of mass-spec approach of burning up the soil to find organics. Levin claims that LR is much more sensitive than that approach, hence the difference in findings.

The conventional wisdom is that Levin's LR found some kind of chemical process - ultra violet-generated soil peroxides, although Levin claims that the supposed processes cannot be duplicated in labs that reproduce Mars conditions.

Levin has been pleading that someone fly Son of LR where there is a pair of LR's, each trying a different "handedness" of the nutrients. All life we know about only eats one particular variety of organic chemicals. It is kind of like feeding one tray Coke and the other Diet Coke, and the tray with Diet Coke should spit and say "blech, who ordered Diet?"

When all is done, I imagine that life will be found on Mars, and when it is, it will by dissappointingly similar to Earth life, scientists will theorize cross-contamination through meteors flying back and forth, and there will be no finding of an independant origin of life for which they will have to trek to Europa.

teamwork instead of space race (1)

jlemmerer (242376) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024011)

Hi!

It is quite interesting to see how the NASA and the ESA are competiting in the exploration of the Red Planet. Everytime the one space agency launches a probe, the other struggles to do the same. I personally think that all the Space Agencies worldwide should combine their knowledge and also their funds to do research on Mars.
In the world of globalisation we live in today it makes hardly any any sense to play single player when its possible to do it multiplayer...

bye
Johannes

Re:teamwork instead of space race (1)

corleth (118672) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024102)

I don't see NASA and ESA as competing really. The different missions are returning quite different data, and both groups are releasing all of their data to the international science community after the usual embargo (typically about a year). Combined missions could also be advantageous, of course, but so is some competition, at least in the eyes of the administrators. It's worth noting that there are Europeans on the NASA mission teams and vice-versa. Also, European and American planetary scientists collaborate on a great many science projects. I really don't see it as a problem.

-Karl

Re:teamwork instead of space race (1)

corleth (118672) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024142)

I should also point out that the Cassini-Huygens mission to the Saturnian system is a good example of NASA/ESA collaboration. NASA provided the probe (Cassini) and ESA provided the Titan lander (Huygens).

-Karl

Darwin (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4024017)

By all means, do read Darwin's "The Voyage of the Beagle". Excellent reading.

Gutenbeerg project
ftp.knowledge.com/pub/mirrors/gutenberg/e text97/vb gle10.txt

Contamination? Ponder this: (2, Interesting)

dbCooper0 (398528) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024035)

Meticulous precautions are taken so the visiting probes do not bring along unintended stowaways -- microorganisms that could conceivably survive the trip and live on Mars.

That sounds all well and good - but what about non-organic contamination? What if a silicone boot on the lander's leg has an adverse reaction with/to Martian soil? How about the lander's alloy components? Emissions, anyone?

Not to sluff off the importance of this mission, but it's not hard to concede that the only definitive evaluation of "life on Mars" (past/present/future) would be a method to observe and detect phenomena non-obtrusively!

The not so clean room...? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4024038)

The 'clean room' is actually housed in an old garage that used to store outside broadcast vehicles for the BBC on the Open University's campus. If the amount of crap and dust the contrators have left behind building the room is anything to go buy, I would'nt want to make a cup of tea in there, let alone assemble a space probe...

Website (5, Informative)

corleth (118672) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024051)

I just wanted to put in a quick advert for the Beagle 2 website at http://www.beagle2.com/. Many of your questions can be answered there.

-Karl

Dr Karl Mitchell
Planetary Science Research Group
Environmental Science Dept.
Lancaster University, UK

clickable link (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4024230)

Clickable link [beagle2.com]

Clean room launch... (2, Informative)

MosesJones (55544) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024062)

Now I may be as thick as a whale omelet, BUT how will they transport it to the rocket and then launch it and ensure that everything else is clean room ? The Rocket will have to remain sterile inside, the transport to the rocket will have to be sterile.

Surely there is a risk of contamination at lots of these phases ? Especially shifting it from the lab, into transport and transport into rocket.

I'm sure they can do it to a high degree of probability, but how can they do it with even 99.999% certainty

Re: Clean room launch... (2)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024148)

> Now I may be as thick as a whale omelet, BUT how will they transport it to the rocket and then launch it and ensure that everything else is clean room ? The Rocket will have to remain sterile inside, the transport to the rocket will have to be sterile.

"Factory sealed to ensure freshness."

I.e., put it in a big baggie and leave it there until it separates from the rocket.

Re:Clean room launch... (2)

Sarin (112173) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024400)

They could put it in somesort of hermetically sealed 'plastic bag' and once the thing is out of reach from contamination it will unleash itself from the 'bag'.

contamination (2, Interesting)

shd99004 (317968) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024071)

As the earth have been hit by asteroids originating from Mars, it makes sense to believe that pieces of Earth have found its way to Mars, right? Question is, how long is the average time for such debris to hit another planet, and can life survive, first of all the impact on our planet that caused the rocks to fly into space, secondly the long long travel in space before it hits Mars and thirdly, the impact on Mars?
So about Beagle 2, can Earth organisms survive several months in vacuum, high radiation and extremely low temperature for months?

Re:contamination (2, Interesting)

Xilman (191715) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024087)

So about Beagle 2, can Earth organisms survive several months in vacuum, high radiation and extremely low temperature for months?

Yes they can, as was demonstrated very convincing a while back when chunks of a Surveyor craft were returned from the moon by an Apollo crew. They were covered in microorganisms which had survived lunar conditions.

Paul

Clean room? (1)

Mika_Lindman (571372) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024078)

Does this mean that all the engineers and rocket scientists have to shower daily? Being rocket scientists and all, it'll propably cost like 500$ each time they "maintain the clean room".

Re:Clean room? (1)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024164)

I don't think many of the guys in physics at this lab bathe much. One of the old guys on perminant staff says its mostly the foreigners, but i dunno. None of my friends in Accelerator wash their hair; but I think that's just a UNIX thing.

The sinister music starts... (1, Offtopic)

sam_handelman (519767) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024085)

When one of the scientists says "and bring some martian life back."

Currupt the Enviroment! (1, Flamebait)

LWolenczak (10527) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024110)

Currupt the Martian Enviroment..... So we can move their in a million years.

-LW, a truly insane flake with god like leet networking skilz

Re:Currupt the Enviroment! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4024161)

Try some god like leet 'currupted' spelling skilz

LNUX is dying (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4024119)

interplanetary battles ahead? (2, Funny)

oskarfasth (187750) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024166)

Other Earth visitors could be on Mars during Beagle 2's 180-day mission. The dog-sized craft is scheduled to hit the martian dirt in late December 2003, about the same time that NASA expects to land twin rovers on the red planet.

I hope the engineers haven't watched to many episodes of "BattleBots"...

Would make a great special feature tho.

Re:interplanetary battles ahead? (1)

nutshell42 (557890) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024369)

Yep, and a great method to get funding for the next mission. Everyone always complains that space exploration generates no profites - now, can you think of a better way to make money than a tv show with lots of action? NASA learned this with Apollo 13. =)

I wonder whether a manned mars mission is going to be promoted as "gotcha in space"

Metrics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4024191)

At least they'll all use the metric system

Clean room ? ENGLAND ??? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4024395)

Anyone who has travelled on the London Underground will be wondering if this is the right place for this kind of work.

The English don't seem to shower very often.

Mind you, I suppose it's better than France!

This is being built a stone's throw... (2)

ClockworkPlanet (244761) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024402)

... from where I'm sitting right now.

No, really.

Correction please (0, Flamebait)

jocks (56885) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024426)

The Open University is a British organistation, not just English. Please don't use "England", "Britain" and the "United Kingdom" interchangably, they are very much not. Can this headline be corrected to be more accurate and less offensive please.

Re:Correction please (1)

ClockworkPlanet (244761) | more than 12 years ago | (#4024479)

"offensive"
You sad twat.

I'm British, and don't give a shit what term you use to refer to the country - get it wrong, so what? It's not offensive! I'll bet that even you, in your perfect world have mixed up 'America' with the 'United States'.
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