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Back to the Red Planet

"No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water."

-- The War Of The Worlds, H.G. Wells

Except that it's the opening years fo the 21st century, the world in question is Mars, and our robots are a little on the dumb side. Still, it's certainly time for Mars to be scrutinised. The orbital elements are right for a fast transit, and over the next couple of months three missions are due to be launched, including three landers (two of which will be NASA rovers).

One of the lander missions is Britain's first planetary probe - the garden barbecue-sized Beagle 2. And it's due for launch today, as part of ESA's Mars Express mission. It's intended to run exobiology and atmospheric experiments, and has a very dramatic landing technique...

It seems odd to wish a pile of low budget electronics a safe journey, but I think it's appropriate.

Bon voyage, Beagle 2...


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 2nd, 2003 01:09 am (UTC)
Beagle should be called zebbedee - boing!

I'm wishing it luck too
Jun. 2nd, 2003 01:10 am (UTC)
I have to admit that that was one of my first thoughts, too!
Jun. 2nd, 2003 01:18 am (UTC)
aaargh ...
Jeff Wayne muzak going round my head now!
Jun. 2nd, 2003 09:52 am (UTC)
I had a really weird moment watching to the news over breakfast this morning, when Moira Stewart announced "and the first British mission to Mars blasts off today". It was just the sort of thing you used to get as a fake BBC news item on Dr Who back in the early 1970s and it was very strange to realise that it was an actual news item!

Fingers crossed for takeoff (fairly confident - the Russians are pretty reliable in that area these days) and trans-Mars injection about an hour and a half later. The really tense time will of course be entry and landing in six months...

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )