Beagle 2 wins support from UK government
4 August 1999The announcement of an extra #5 million of UK government money for the Mars Express lander, Beagle 2, puts the project firmly on track to secure full funding from a mixture of public and private sources. When announcing the extra finance at the Science Museum in London yesterday morning, the UK science minister, Lord Sainsbury, described Beagle 2 as "world class science". "It will demonstrate a remarkable public/private partnership and will bring scientists and industrialists into a closer relationship," he said.
Colin Pillinger, professor of planetary sciences at The Open University and the driving force behind the Beagle 2 project said: "The signal Lord Sainsbury has sent today is that the government's behind us. This gives us the chance to go to others and say 'will you commit?'." ESA selected Beagle 2 for its 2003 mission to Mars, Mars Express, on condition that the technical feasibility of the lander, and a finance package and development plan to build and deliver it respecting the time schedule, can be demonstrated by November. Before finally approving the lander, ESA and its industrial partners will conduct a detailed review of its design, development and cost estimates. "Current indications are very positive that the Beagle teams will meet all of the ESA requirements to get a ticket to Mars in 2003," says Con McCarthy, Principle Lander System Egineer for Beagle 2 at ESA's technical centre, ESTEC in the Netherlands. Beagle 2 will separate from Mars Express just before the spacecraft goes into orbit at the end of 2003. The lander will descend to the Martian surface from where it will take measurements of the atmosphere, the surface and the interior of rocks. One of its major aims will be to determine whether life exists or has ever existed on Mars.