Skip to comments.Beagle's Long Silence Continues
Posted on 12/27/2003 12:58:44 AM PST by RWR8189
The Beagle was meant to land on Mars early on Christmas Day
There has been no signal detected from the surface of Mars on Friday that would indicate the UK-built Beagle 2 lander got down safely.
The US orbiter Mars Odyssey flew over the assumed landing zone just after 1800 GMT but heard no transmission.
The giant radio telescope at Jodrell Bank in northwest England also failed to make contact after listening to the planet for hours on Friday evening.
Scientists refuse to give up hope and will continue to scan Mars for a call.
Team leader Professor Colin Pillinger said he had faith Beagle had landed safely, adding: "We will hang on testing and waiting."
Both Odyssey and Jodrell will continue their sweep in the coming days. Other radio telescopes including one at Stanford in California and at Westerbourg in the Netherlands have offered to help in the search.
If Beagle 2 is alive it will transmit at a frequency of 401.56 Mhz.
Long-term, the Mars Express [Beagle's mothership, which carried it into space and set it loose about a week ago] should be in position to try to make contact with its "baby" on 4 January.
Mother and child were designed to talk to each other and a communication with Mars Express may be the best hope.
"We're still early days in extra time," said Professor Pillinger.
If it had landed safely, Beagle was designed to survive on its automated systems for weeks, if not months, he said.
It's very much like sending somebody a love letter - you know they've got it and you're waiting for their response
Professor Colin Pillinger
"So we're not concerned about not being able to contact it.
"If we can contact it, we can pull this thing round. But it's very much like... sending somebody a love letter. You know they've got it and you're waiting for their response."
Scientists say there are a number of possible explanations for Beagle's failure to call home.
Perhaps the most likely is that Beagle 2 landed off course, in an area where communication with Mars Odyssey is difficult, if not impossible.
Another possibility is that the transmission from the lander's antenna is blocked from reaching Mars Odyssey or the ground-based telescopes.
Beagle 2 was targeted to land in a large lowland basin called Isidis Planitia at 0254 GMT on 25 December.
The "pocket watch" design of Beagle 2 ensured that it would turn upright irrespective of which way up the little lander fell. Soon after, the onboard computer was expected to send commands to release the clamp band, open the lid and begin transmission.