BY JUSTIN RAY
Reload this page for updates on Europe's Mars Express spacecraft arrival at the Red Planet and the Beagle 2 landing.
MONDAY, JANUARY 26, 2004
"We haven't found Beagle 2, despite three days of intensive searching," Professor Colin Pillinger, lead scientist for Beagle 2, said today. "Under those circumstances, we have to begin to accept that, if Beagle 2 is on the Martian surface, it is not active.
"That isn't to say that we are going to give up on Beagle. There is one more thing that we can do -- however, it is very much a last resort. We will be asking the American Odyssey spacecraft (team) tomorrow whether they will send an embedded command -- a hail to Beagle with a command inside it. If it gets through, it will tell Beagle to switch off and reload the software. We are now working on the basis that there is a corrupt system and the only way we might resurrect is to send that command.
"We can also ask Mars Express to send that command. However, they cannot send it probably until the 2nd or 3rd of February," he added.
Repeated attempts were made over the weekend to find Beagle's signal using the European Space Agency's Mars Express and NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiters and the Jodrell Bank radio telescope in Cheshire, UK.
Mark Sims, Beagle 2 mission manager from the University of Leicester, said that the lander should have entered an emergency communication mode known as CSM2 no later than January 22. In this mode, Beagle's receiver is switched on throughout daylight hours on Mars.
If Beagle 2 survived its landing and is still alive, officials say the only possible explanation that no communication has been established during the last few days is that the lander's battery is in a low state of charge.
Meanwhile, a "Tiger Team" is beginning to look beyond the recovery efforts. The academia and industry group is performing a detailed analysis of scenarios that would have caused the Beagle 2 mission to fail and the lessons that can be learned for future probes.
"We'll move with the next phase in the search for Beagle 2," said Pillinger. "We have discussed on our side of the house what we intend to do in the future. We are dedicated to trying to refly Beagle 2 in some shape or form, therefore we need to know how far it got because we need know which parts of this mission we don't have to study in further detail."
"The analysis of the mission now under way includes an assessment of the landing site ellipse from orbital images, reanalysis of atmospheric conditions during the entry into the Martian atmosphere on December 25, examination of the separation from Mars Express and of the cruise phase preceding arrival at Mars," the project said.
Also, engineers and scientists hope to receive an image of the Beagle on the surface to determine whether to did survive descent through the atmosphere and whether the pocket watch-like craft opened up as designed after touchdown. The High Resolution Stereo Camera on Mars Express or the camera package on NASA's Mars Global Surveyor could capture such an image one day.
TUESDAY, JANUARY 20, 2004
On January 12 a period of radio silence was initiated when no attempts were made to contact Beagle 2. Maintaining radio silence for a period of ten days is intended to force Beagle 2 into a communication mode that should ensure that the transmitter is switched on for the majority of the daytime on Mars and thus will improve the chance of the Mars Express orbiter making contact.
During this ten-day period Mars Express has listened for Beagle 2 but only for very short periods when Beagle 2 may not have been switched on.
The ten-day radio silence period ends January 22, just before a fly-over by Mars Express. However, it is not intended to hail the Lander immediately. This cautious approach is based on the fact that the end of the ten-day period of radio silence cannot be predicted with total confidence. This is because the absolute accuracy of the timer on Beagle 2 could have been affected by the temperature on Mars, making the clock run slightly faster or slower than predicted.
It has therefore been decided to choose a pair of opportunities when Mars Express flies over the Beagle 2 landing site, namely the nights of January 24 and 25. These two flights cover the widest possible area where Beagle 2 should be, giving the best chance of calling the Lander and getting a response from the continuous transmission.
The results from these latest attempts to communicate with Beagle 2 will be announced by Prof. Colin Pillinger, Beagle 2 Lead Scientist and Dr. Mark Sims, Beagle 2 Mission Manager, on January 26, at a media briefing.
MONDAY, JANUARY 12, 2004
Beagle 2 lead scientist Colin Pillinger was in Europe's mission control during this Mars Express attempt. "Although the news was disappointing, Prof. Pillinger was encouraged by the continued support and determination of the team at ESA's mission control center to continue the search," the project said.
"The next phase will be to initiate a period of radio silence where no communication attempts will be made with Beagle 2 until the 22nd of January. Adopting this approach will force Beagle 2 into communication search mode 2 [CSM2] where the probe will automatically transmit a signal throughout the Martian day [power is still conserved during the night]," officials explained.
SATURDAY, JANUARY 10, 2004
The next opportunity for Mars Express to detect a signal from Beagle 2 is 0202 GMT Monday.
FRIDAY, JANUARY 9, 2004
Additional attempts are possible on Saturday at 1404 GMT and Monday at 0202 GMT.
1605 GMT (11:05 a.m. EST)
It took ground controllers a lengthy amount of time to sort through the data gathered by Mars Express orbiter while it operated in the so-called canister mode.
"This particular search mode was built into the Mars Express communication system to detect signal 'beacons' from other craft at a future date. Beagle 2 does not have such a beacon due to mass constraints, however the search mode may be able to pick up other very faint signals generated at low power levels," the Beagle project says.
"The data processing required to interpret the results of a canister mode search is complicated and takes many hours. Therefore the results will not be available straight away."
Search efforts will continue, including an attempt January 12 -- the last Mars Express overpass of the landing site that was pre-programmed into the lander before its separation from the orbiter on December 19. However, this window will only be available if nothing has happened to reset or alter the lander's timeline.
1728 GMT (12:28 p.m. EST)
"The ground processing of this data will take several hours," officials cautioned. The result is unlikely to be known until late this evening or early tomorrow morning.
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 7, 2004
"We have another opportunity to look tomorrow in a more sensitive mode, the canister mode on Mars Express, which is the most sensitive mode Mars Express has for detecting an RF signal," Mark Sims, the Beagle 2 mission manager, said today.
"We have two Odyssey sessions tonight, when we will be attempting to command Beagle 2 in order to have a maximum chance of seeing data with the canister mode tomorrow."
A "favorable opportunity" for Mars Express occurs January 12 when the last of Beagle's pre-programmed contact sessions is scheduled. "However, this window will only be available if nothing has happened to reset or alter the lander's timeline," the project says.
"If we see nothing ... we're left with the scenario of Beagle 2 potentially operating but not being able to receive a signal, in which case we will have to wait till the last back-up mode in Beagle 2 becomes active, which is autotransmit," Sims said. "The latest date that will become active is February 2."
"My personal view is that, if we have not received a signal within 5 to 10 days of that event, then we have to assume Beagle is lost."
1511 GMT (10:11 a.m. EST)
"I have, I am afraid, to make a sad announcement. Today when we were in conditions we thought were very good to get communications between Mars Express, the mothership, and Beagle 2, the baby, we did not get any content of a signal nor indeed a signal from the surface.
"This is not the end of the story. We have more shots to play. But I have to say this is a setback. It makes me feel really very sad. Nonetheless I do not want to belittle the Beagle 2 team. They got to Mars and maybe we will still hear from them."
So much hope had been pinned on today's chance to hear from the lander because it was the first to use Mars Express.
Mars Express carried Beagle on the seven-month cruise from Earth to the Red Planet before deploying the lander Dec. 19 for a six-day solo trek to the Martian surface. The communications compatibility between the two craft was tested prior to launch -- unlike NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter and radio telescopes links, used in the search to date, that were never fully rehearsed.
Mars Express successfully entered Martian orbit on Christmas. But it was in an extremely elongated orbit that carried the probe well away from the planet. After a series of engine firings to reach a much tighter orbit around Mars, the craft finally began searching for Beagle today.
Colin Pillinger, Beagle lead scientist, vows to "play to the final whistle." Additional attempts will be made in the coming days using different communications modes.
1506 GMT (10:06 a.m. EST)
1430 GMT (9:30 a.m. EST)
According to Colin Pillinger, Beagle lead scientist, the Mars Express flew over the landing site between 1213 and 1218 GMT (7:13-7:18 a.m. EST). The orbiter would have sent out a "hail" and listened for a response from Beagle. If a response was received, that would be stored aboard Mars Express. After the orbiter was configured, the response would be transmitted to a tracking station in Australia and then relayed to European mission control in Germany. Controllers will look through the data and work with Beagle engineers at their separate center to determine if the lander was heard from.
0130 GMT (8:30 p.m. EST Tues.)
The European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter, which carried Beagle to the Red Planet, makes its first low-altitude flight over the equatorial landing site at 1215 GMT (7:15 a.m. EST). The Mars Express and Beagle communications systems were tested on Earth for compatibility. If Beagle survived its descent and landing, Mars Express should hear the lander's signal.
"The Ultra High Frequency (UHF) receivers on Mars Express are ready to communicate with Beagle 2," ESA said on Tuesday.
The orbiter will soar 315 kilometers over the presumed landing spot. The slightest beep from the Martian surface would be detected by Mars Express, allowing it to radio the good news to the European Space Operations Center in Darmstadt, Germany.
NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter made multiple attempts to hear Beagle's signal over several days in late December. Radio telescopes on Earth also listened for Beagle's bark. But nothing was ever heard.
Beagle's mission is ambitious. Folded up like a pocket watch, the tiny craft made a fiery plunge into the Martian atmosphere where a heat shield was designed to protect it, followed by a parachute to slow the fall. Three balloon-like airbags would inflate just before impact to cushion the landing. Once on the surface, the pocket watch would open up to deploy power-generating solar panels and a scientific arm for examining the planet.
Officials say they aren't ready to say goodbye to Beagle. If Mars Express hears only silence today, further attempts are possible over the coming weeks.
Success or failure of today's communications opportunity will be announced around 1500 GMT (10 a.m. EST). We will update this page as soon as details become available.
SUNDAY, JANUARY 4, 2004
At 1313 GMT (8:13 a.m. EST) today, Mars Express fired its main engine for five minutes to lower the high point of its orbit from 190,000 km to 40,000 km. The orbit's low point is about 250 km.
Mars Express' final orbit is targeted to be 11,000 km by 300 km. Two additional engine burns are scheduled to reach this orbit on the nights of January 6 to 7 and January 10 to 11.
Getting the spacecraft into the desired operational orbit will allow its scientific mission to begin, plus help in the efforts to locate the Beagle 2 lander that should have touched down on Christmas Day but has never been heard from.
"From the second half of January 2004 onwards, the orbiter's instruments will be prepared to scan the atmosphere, the surface and parts of the subsurface structure of Mars with unprecedented precision. The High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC), for example, will take high-precision pictures of the planet and will begin a comprehensive 3D cartography of Mars. The MARSIS radar will be able to scan as far as four kilometers below the surface, looking for underground water or ice. Also, several spectrometers will try to unveil the mysteries of Martian mineralogy and the atmosphere, as well as influences from the solar wind or seasonal changes," says Michael McKay, Mars Express flight operations director in Darmstadt, Germany.
At 12:15 GMT on January 7, the lowest point of the Mars Express orbit will be about 315 km to Beagle's landing site, ESA says.
"At this precise time, our Mars Express orbiter is in both an ideal flight path and an ideal communication configuration, right on top of the Beagle 2 landing area, at about 86 degrees. In this situation, we should be able to discern the slightest beep on the Martian surface," Mars Express project manager Rudolf Schmidt says.
"We haven't in any shape or form given up on Beagle 2," Professor Colin Pillinger, Beagle lead scientist, said this morning.
"We have realized that Mars Express is not in the orbit we originally expected, so our communication strategy is now different from the one that we explained at the beginning of last week."
Mark Sims, the Beagle mission manager, says engineers are still evaluating possible explanations for the lack of communications from the lander.
"We're still concentrating on both the communications and timing/software issues, and working our way through the logic and fault tree on the basis that Beagle 2 is on the surface of Mars and for some reason is failing to talk to us.
"There are six or seven scenarios that we're still working through and we still can't eliminate any of those."
But possible failure scenarios involving a reset of the clock hardware and a problem with a tilted antenna seem to have been ruled out. Today's successful transmission of signals from NASA's Spirit rover via Mars Odyssey also indicates that the radio onboard the orbiter is working properly.
Beagle has 15 pre-programmed communications sessions loaded into its computer. There have been no signals detected in the first 11 passes. The final four were opportunities using the Mars Express orbiter. However, these four times no longer coincide with Mars Express on its current orbit, so the team is now relying on the spacecraft switching to various back-up communication modes, officials said.
According to the Beagle project:
"The mission team is now waiting for their little lander to switch to one of its backup communication modes. Beagle 2 could already be operating in 'communication search mode 1', during which it listens for 80 minutes during both the Martian day and night in an effort to establish contact with an available orbiter at Mars Odyssey overflight times.
"If no link is established by this method, 'communication search mode 2' should eventually be activated. The earliest date by which this mode could become operational was January 3rd. In this mode, the receiver is on for 59 minutes out of every hour throughout the Martian day, and the spacecraft sends a carrier signal five times in each daylight hour. During the Martian night, Beagle 2's receiver will be on for one minute out of every five, but there is no carrier signal."
Mars Express should pass over the Beagle 2 landing site regularly beginning January 7. Various modes of communication can be attempted during passes by Mars Express, although the team anticipates starting on January 7 and 8 with the standard 'hail and command' which has been used with Mars Odyssey.
"The first four passes with Mars Express (January 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th) are almost directly over the landing site and only 5 to 8 minutes long, so they are not ideal for communication, whereas the opportunities on January 12th and 14th are potentially much longer," the project says.
SATURDAY, JANUARY 3, 2004
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 31, 2003
It took several hours for officials to confirm the results of the orbiter's overflight of the landing site because the Deep Space Network on Earth was occupied by NASA's Mars Exploration Rover and Stardust projects.
In the planned communications session with an orbiting spacecraft, Beagle switches into "listening" mode for 80 minutes. During the pass over the landing site Mars Odyssey sends out a series of 'hails' which, if picked up by Beagle, will enable the lander's receiver to lock onto the signal from the orbiter and activates the lander's transmitter and communications can proceed.
"Scientists took the opportunity this morning to upload another command to Beagle 2 to try to reset its internal clock," the Beagle 2 project announced. "This time, however, the instructions were embedded in the 'hail' command. This is designed to initiate the contact sequence with Beagle 2 and doesn't require a response from the lander to confirm the data have been received.
"No initial result was achieved during this pass of Odyssey but it is hoped that the command may bring success in a future communication slot."
The next opportunity for retrieval of a signal from Beagle 2 will be with Mars Express in early January. Officials said the specific date and time of the next attempt is still being assessed.
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 30, 2003
Another Odyssey opportunity begins at 0904 GMT (4:04 a.m. EST) Wednesday. Officials say the results of this try will be available after 1400 GMT (9 a.m. EST).
2035 GMT (3:35 p.m. EST)
1505 GMT (10:05 a.m. EST)
1035 GMT (5:35 a.m. EST)
The next opportunity will begin at 2020 GMT (3:20 p.m. EST) today.
MONDAY, DECEMBER 29, 2003
0145 GMT (8:45 p.m. EST Sun.)
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 28, 2003
1900 GMT (2:00 p.m. EST)
To date, all Odyssey, Jodrell Bank and Stanford University shots at finding the lander have been unsuccessful.
0115 GMT (8:15 p.m. EST Sat.)
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 27, 2003
2300 GMT (6:00 p.m. EST)
Meanwhile, the next Mars Odyssey opportunity to capture transmissions from the lander will occur at 1857 GMT (1:57 p.m. EST) Sunday.
1050 GMT (5:50 a.m. EST)
0857 GMT (3:57 a.m. EST)
The Mars Odyssey orbiter cruised over the targeted landing site a little while ago, providing the latest chance to hear Beagle and relay the signal to Earth. But for the third time since Christmas morning, Odyssey heard nothing from the Martian surface.
0050 GMT (7:50 p.m. EST Fri.)
The radio telescope performed a scan of the sky while Mars was visible to the observatory.
"At present, Beagle 2 should be sending a pulsing on-off signal once a minute (10 seconds on, 50 seconds off). Some 9 minutes later, this very slow "Morse Code" broadcast should reach Earth after a journey of some 98 million miles (157 million km)," Beagle officials said in a statement.
"Although the Beagle's transmitter power is only five watts, little more than that of a mobile phone, scientists are confident that the signal can be detected by the state-of-the-art receiver recently installed on the Lovell Telescope. However, a significant drop in signal strength would require rigorous analysis of the data before it could be unambiguously identified.
"Although the ground-based radio telescopes will not be able to send any reply, the new information provided by detection of the transmission from Beagle 2 would enable the mission team to determine a provisional location for Beagle 2. This, in turn, would allow the communications antenna on Mars Odyssey to be directed more accurately towards Beagle 2 during the orbiter's subsequent overhead passes."
The next Odyssey flight over the landing site will occur in a few hours.
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 26, 2003
2055 GMT (3:55 p.m. EST)
Jodrell Bank radio telescope in the U.K. will continue listening this evening in hopes of detecting a transmission from the tiny lander that is supposed to be operating on the surface of Mars.
Odyssey will try again at 0657 GMT (1:57 a.m. EST) and 1814 GMT (1:14 p.m. EST) on Saturday.
"While initial attempts to detect a signal from the tiny spacecraft have failed, further efforts are scheduled whenever possible during the next few days," the European Space Agency says.
1835 GMT (1:35 p.m. EST)
According to the European Space Agency, the next sweep by Jodrell Bank will occur between 2320 and 2400 GMT (6:20-7 p.m. EST) tonight, although this giant radio telescope likely will begin looking earlier than that window.
On Saturday, Mars Odyssey passes over the landing site again at 0657 GMT (1:57 a.m. EST). Jodrell Bank becomes available between 2316 and 2356 GMT (6:16 and 6:56 p.m. EST).
Odyssey will continue the search daily and the Stanford University radio telescope in the U.S. is expected to also join in the effort, ESA said.
"If all those attempts are unsuccessful, then Mars Express itself flies over the landing site in the first week of January 2004. Of all these potential signal detectors, Mars Express is the only one that has been specially designed and tested to transmit and receive signals from Beagle 2.
"The hope is strong that the Mars Express orbiter will be successful in this task," ESA officials said.
1815 GMT (1:15 p.m. EST)
0300 GMT (10:00 p.m. EST Thurs.)
0030 GMT (7:30 p.m. EST Thurs.)
A second opportunity to receive communication from the British Beagle 2 lander has failed to detect a signal. Using the 76-meter Jodrell Bank radio telescope, scientists hoped to hear a tone from the lander tonight that would indicate the spacecraft is alive on the surface of Mars.
But just like the initial shot at hearing from Beagle around 0530 GMT (12:30 a.m. EST) via NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft in orbit around the planet, not a peep was heard.
Thursday evening's Jodrell sweep was performed from 2220 to 2340 GMT (5:20-6:40 p.m. EST), the European Space Agency said.
While trying to remain hopeful, project officials will continue the search on Friday with Mars Odyssey and Jodrell. The team says the next Odyssey attempt will be made at 1814 GMT (1:14 p.m. EST). Jodrell will try again between 2320 and 2400 GMT (6:20-7 p.m. EST).
The tiny lander only had enough battery power for its six-day solo journey to the planet -- after being released by Mars Express. Following its touchdown last night, it had to come alive and deploy power-generating solar arrays. A few hours later, Odyssey flew overheard in the attempt to obtain the first signals from the lander. Officials cautioned that a variety of non-serious conditions such as a mis-directed antenna could explain why Odyssey heard nothing.
The Jodrell search was expected to be even more promising since it would be scanning to hear any tone from the lander.
Assuming Beagle survived the landing and is functioning on the surface, it has 14 contacts with Odyssey programmed into the computer, said Professor Colin Pillinger, lead scientist for the Beagle 2 project. In addition, the Mars Express orbiter will be available to begin searching after January 4.
So the hunt to find Beagle likely will continue for some time.
0010 GMT (7:10 p.m. EST Thurs.)
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 25, 2003
1900 GMT (2:00 p.m. EST)
The sun set at the site at 0715 GMT (1835 local solar time), and Beagle 2 was designed to power itself down to conserve power during the cold Martian night when temperatures may plunge to -80C.
Sunrise will occur at 2002 GMT (0702 local solar time). After that, Beagle should come back to life for a round of communications attempts with Earth.
The initial opportunity to receive the Beagle 2's signal earlier today -- through NASA's orbiting Mars Odyssey spacecraft -- failed to detect the lander.
Beagle was programmed to transmit a musical "beeping" signal of 9 digitally encoded notes, composed by British rock group Blur, as a sign that it successfully survived the landing. Odyssey would pick up the signal and relay it to controllers at home. But nothing was heard from the Martian surface.
"This is a bit disappointing, but it's not the end of the world," Professor Colin Pillinger, lead scientist for the Beagle 2 project, said of the initial setback.
"We still have 14 contacts with Odyssey programmed into our computer and we also have the opportunity to communicate through Mars Express after January 4."
The next attempt is scheduled between 2200 and 2400 GMT (5 and 7 p.m. EST) tonight using the Jodrell Bank radio observatory in the U.K. to listen for any signs of Beagle. The lander will now be sending a continuous tone to aid in the search.
The project team believes the hunt for signals using Jodrell Bank will have a greater chance of success because the giant telescope is able to scan the entire side of Mars facing the Earth.
Mars Odyssey will make more overflights of the landing zone on Friday and Saturday, with plans to listen for the craft. Radio telescopes at Jodrell Bank and Stanford University in the U.S. will also continue the search.
Project officials say there are several different scenarios to explain the lack of initial contact -- such as the craft landed a bit off course, its antenna is mis-pointed for Odyssey, or that Beagle's onboard computer experienced a glitch and reset the lander's clock and therefore the two spacecraft "could be hailing each other at the wrong times."
"Beagle, we'll go on looking for and I'm really quite confident about hearing from it," said David Southwood, head of the European Space Agency's Science Directorate.
We will continue to update this page as additional information becomes available on tonight's search.
0835 GMT (3:35 a.m. EST)
Mars Express fired its main engine for a half-hour around 0300 GMT to be "captured" into Martian orbit, kicking off a multi-year mission to study the planet's atmosphere and geology.
"This firing gave the probe a boost so that it could match the higher speed of the planet on its orbit around the Sun and be captured by its gravity field, like climbing in a spinning merry-go-round. This orbit insertion maneuver was a complete success," ESA announced.
At the same time of the Mars Express orbit insertion burn, Beagle 2 was plowing into the planet's atmosphere for a risky eight-minute descent to the surface at Isidis Planitia, just north of the equator. A protective heat-shield, parachutes and impact-cushioning airbags were to be employed during the entry and landing, but real-time information from the craft was unavailable.
A few hours after the touchdown, NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter flew over the landing site. The American craft would receive a signal coming from Beagle and relay it back to controllers on Earth.
But that first shot at hearing from Beagle 2, confirming it is alive and well on Mars, turned up nothing but silence.
The next attempt to receive a Beagle 2 signal will occur around 2300 GMT (6 p.m. EST) tonight when the powerful Jodrell Bank telescope in England begins searching. Beagle 2's transmitter is expected to be in "carrier" mode, or a continuous unmodulated signal, and Jodrell should be able to hear that the lander has survived.
Subsequent opportunities with Odyssey and Jodrell will be available on Friday and Saturday.
Despite Beagle 2 failing to phone home, officials remain hopeful that contact will be established and the 180-day mission to search for past Martian life can commence.
"This first indication of no signal is not taken so negatively here in mission control. We are still very optimistic to receive a good signal from Beagle 2 in the coming days, and also to match the success of Mars Express, which is very successfully in orbit around Mars," flight director Mike McKay said.
"The arrival of Mars Express is a great success for Europe and for the international science community. Now, we are just waiting for a signal from Beagle 2 to make this Christmas the best we could hope for!" added David Southwood, head of ESA's Science Directorate.
"With Mars Express, we have a very powerful observatory in orbit around Mars and we look forward to receiving its first results. Its instruments will be able to probe the planet from its upper atmosphere down to a few kilometers below the surface, where we hope to find critical clues concerning the conditions for life, in particular traces of water.
"We expect this mission to give us a better understanding of our neighbor planet, of its past and its present, answering many questions for the science community and probably raising an even greater number of fascinating new ones.
"I hope we can see it as opening up a new era of European exploration."
0740 GMT (2:40 a.m. EST)
"The Beagle 2 certainly has landed. It was targeted with great accuracy last Friday by the Mars Express spacecraft that put it on a very, very precise course into the upper atmosphere. The landing site was supposed to be 200 km long and 50 km wide. After the work done by the navigation team here at the European Space Operations Center mission control, that landing site was reduced down to 31 km long and only five km wide, so extremely precise targeting. The Beagle 2 certainly has gone into the atmosphere.
"At the moment, we have just received some indication from (NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory) who are supposed to receive first signal as it flew over the Beagle 2 landing site with its spacecraft, Odyssey. They did not see any signal at that time. They have had nothing received onboard the spacecraft. But we knew that this first contact was always a very, very cautious first signal from the spacecraft.
"There are many reasons why the signal was not received by the spacecraft. You hear in the background the controllers from NASA Odyssey flight control center with our team here and also the Beagle 2 in the U.K. discussing the files that were transferred for commanding Odyssey, for the settings of their transmitter and also on the Beagle itself -- the transmission frequency is very much dependant on temperature. So it may be the temperature has caused the frequency to drift off slightly. The Beagle 2 may have also landed slightly at one of the edges of the landing site, and it may also be sitting on a tilt. So the overflight times may not be as expected.
"And this was in our plan to have backup options. Tonight we have a large radio astronomy dish in the United Kingdom, the famous Jodrell Bank antenna. It will be training its sights on Mars to see if there is any indication of a very, very faint UHF signal, which the same frequency as you have been receiving on televisions for many years, reaching out into 150 million km distance to see is there is something being transmitted from the surface from Beagle 2. We have (Friday) also a further opportunity early in the morning when Odyssey will overfly the Beagle landing site, and again on Saturday. And both of those nights we still have Jodrell Bank to back us up to go and search for the Beagle 2.
"So this first indication of no signal is not taken so negatively here in mission control. We are still very optimistic to receive a good signal from Beagle 2 in the coming days, and also to match the success of Mars Express, which is very successfully in orbit around Mars."
0720 GMT (2:20 a.m. EST)
"It is really a very important night. Europe has arrived at Mars. Europe is turning its eyes toward Mars and I think that is something that every European should feel proud of.
"Last summer, in the terrible heat, many of us couldn't sleep at night. You looked out at 3 o'clock in the morning in the middle of August, you could see Mars hanging there. I think many Europeans knew we were on our way there.
"We are on our way there for scientific purposes, but I think also...there is more than just science. We are doing something of cultural significance. I think we in Europe have a duty, we are a developed area of the world, and we must look outwards as well as look inwards. And I think exploring space is very much looking outwards.
"We are doing it to bring information back to us, to ourselves.
"The purpose of Mars Express is just not to learn the science of our neighboring planet, but also to relate that to life on this planet. I remind you, this planet is the most habitable planet in our solar system. I hope we can keep it that way. By looking out into our solar system at some of the failures of habitable planets, and Mars appears to have been a failure as a planet for life, so far. That is going to teach us very important lessons back here on Earth.
"This is not the scientists just having fun. We are doing something very important. Europe should be doing as well as the Americans, as well as the Japanese, as well as the Russians, and I hope in the future, the Chinese, the Indians.
"It is a very important day for all of the European citizens out there who have contributed to this, through their taxation, and who should be sharing with us the joy we feel at being, finally, at Mars.
"There is more to come. We want to hear from Beagle. We want, in the next two years, to show you the fruit of the scientific instruments we sent to Mars. But we are there and so far, so good. I am very proud to say that."
0707 GMT (2:07 a.m. EST)
0644 GMT (1:44 a.m. EST)
"We were scheduled to pick up a signal using the American Mars Odyssey spacecraft a little earlier from Beagle 2. The overflight of the American spacecraft has taken place. The data have been returned to the Earth and analyzed. At the moment, I'm sorry to say that we don't have a signal, yet, from the Beagle lander.
"This is not the end of the story -- it is very important to remember that. This was our first opportunity to pick up a signal. The antenna on Beagle may be pointed in the wrong direction. There may be some delay. However, getting signals back from Mars is not straightforward.
"Our next opportunity will be just before midnight Central European Time (2300 GMT; 6 p.m. EST) when we will use the large, 76-meter radio telescope, Jodrell Bank, in northern England to listen for signals from Beagle.
"Should that not give us signals, don't worry. We will continue listening tomorrow. There will be a further overflight by Mars Odyssey, the American spacecraft, and we will consider several other opportunities until the end of the year for us to pick up the signal.
"We are sure that Beagle is down on the surface. We just need to hear from Beagle that is it there."
0634 GMT (1:34 a.m. EST)
"I'm sorry to say that we don't have a signal, yet, from the Beagle lander," Professor David Southwood, director of the European Space Agency's science program, just announced.
The NASA Mars Odyssey has made its overflight of the Beagle 2's landing site. However, it did not hear a signal from the lander below.
0530 GMT (12:30 a.m. EST)
But even if the lander has survived its dramatic journey to the surface, officials say there is no guarantee that communications will occur during this first attempt with Odyssey. They note that Beagle may not have fully opened up by the time the orbiter appears over the Martian horizon.
Beagle is supposed to shut down for the Martian night in a little while. So if Odyssey does not hear Beagle now, the lander will be asleep when the orbiter again flies overhead later today. The next opportunity for mission controllers to learn the fate of the lander will come late Thursday when the Lovell Telescope at the Jodrell Bank Observatory in the U.K. listens from Beagle's signal at around 2240 GMT.
Sunset on Mars is 0715 GMT; sunrise is 2002 GMT.
0431 GMT (11:31 p.m. EST Wed.)
However, officials will have to wait a bit longer to confirm details about the orbit insertation and declare success. The full X-band telemetry data will be regained later tonight to determine the burn duration, spacecraft health and the exact orbit achieved.
But for now, mission controllers are shaking hands and breathing easier based on this initial information.
0318 GMT (10:18 p.m. EST Wed.)
We will continue to update this page throughout the night as information becomes available on the fate of Beagle 2 and the Mars Express spacecraft.
0300 GMT (10:00 p.m. EST Wed.)
0254 GMT (9:54 p.m. EST Wed.)
The gas bags, no longer needed, will separate from the lander. And in a few minutes, the craft will transition to its lander software program, and deploy the power-generating solar arrays and scientific equipment.
The first opportunity for Beagle 2 to transmit signals will occur around 0530 GMT when NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft, currently orbiting the planet, soars over the Beagle landing site. The results of Odyssey's attempt to hear the lander will be known sometime between 0630 and 0700 GMT.
For now, a tense wait to determine the ultimate fate of Beagle 2 continues.
0252 GMT (9:52 p.m. EST Wed.)
As soon as the contact was made with the surface, the main parachute should have been released so that the "beachball-like" lander could countinue bounce freely.
0251:45 GMT (9:51:45 p.m. EST Wed.)
0251 GMT (9:51 p.m. EST Wed.)
Shortly, the radar altimeter will be switched on. Once the spacecraft's heat shield is jettisoned, the altimeter will be able to detect the surface every tenth-of-a-second.
0250 GMT (9:50 p.m. EST Wed.)
Accelerometer devices should have been detecting the decelerating effect as the craft plunged into the atmosphere over the past few minutes. Now that the atmosphere's resistance no longer is slowing the craft, the spacecraft will command the parachute deployment device to deploy the pilot chute.
0247:48 GMT (9:47:48 p.m. EST Wed.)
Meanwhile, the Mars Express spacecraft is supposed to be firing its main engine for this mission-critical maneuver to achieve orbit around the Red Planet.
However, live real-time confirmation all of these events is not available from Beagle or Mars Express.
0230 GMT (9:30 p.m. EST Wed.)
0150 GMT (8:50 p.m. EST Wed.)
Meanwhile, the Beagle 2 lander remains en route to its fiery plunge into the Martian atmosphere at 20,000 kilometers per hour. It is expected to arrive on the planet's surface around 0254 GMT.
0135 GMT (8:35 p.m. EST Wed.)
The Mars Express will now perform a "slew" maneuver so that its main engine is pointed in proper direction for the upcoming orbit insertion burn. But as the spacecraft is maneuvered to this new position, its main antenna will no longer be directed toward Earth. That will temporarily end the main stream of telemetry data from the craft.
2315 GMT (6:15 p.m. EST)
The craft's velocity data indicates that the pull of Martian gravity is continually increasing.
"This gravitational influence is as predicted, and serves as an independent confirmation that the spacecraft is on its planned course," officials said.
2254 GMT (5:54 p.m. EST)
It was deployed from the Mars Express last Friday, traveling on the proper course to reach a region of Mars called Isidis Planitia. The craft has no means of propulsion and is simply following a ballistic trajectory to Mars.
Beagle 2 has been making its solo journey over the past few days without any power or way of charging its batteries, and controllers have no way to communicate with the lander or check its health.
The only item operating aboard the craft is a timer chip that will wake up the electrical systems about two-and-a-half hours before the atmospheric descent tonight. That will trigger a pre-programmed entry and landing sequence. Beagle 2 will rely upon its battery until the power-generating solar arrays are fully deployed on the Martian surface.
1630 GMT (11:30 a.m. EST)
Meanwhile, the Beagle 2 team has revised its calculations of the landing zone. The ellipse-shaped zone is now 70 kilometers (43 miles) long by 11 kilometers (7 miles) across.
As of 1100 GMT today, Mars Express was 169,000 kilometers from Mars and 156,167,000 kilometers from Earth.
Both the Mars Express and the Beagle 2 lander have a velocity relative to Mars of 2.8 kilometers per second, increasing under the influence of Martian gravity.
The two spacecraft were 2,300 kilometres apart, separating at a rate of 6.5 meters per second.
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 24, 2003
The Beagle 2 lander and Mars Express orbiter will both be encountering Mars early Christmas Day GMT, or late on December 24 in the U.S. The two launched on June 2 aboard a Soyuz rocket and have spent almost 7 months en route to the planet via an arcing trajectory 250 million miles in length.
The two separated last Friday and have since been preparing for their dates with destiny, when early on Christmas Beagle 2 will attempt to become the fifth spacecraft to successfully make a landing on Mars. Meanwhile, Mars Express will be trying to become the first European probe to orbit another planet.
Touching down at 0254 GMT (9:54 p.m. EST the 24th) will be the British-developed Beagle 2 lander. After an 8-minute passage through the Martian atmosphere and having encountered scalding temperatures, the tiny space probe with a landing mass of just 73 pounds will deploy its main parachute and inflate airbags to cushion its first contact with the surface.
Initiation of the entry process will begin at roughly midnight GMT, when Beagle's computer will be brought online to support landing activities. The first major encounter with traces of the upper Martian atmosphere is expected shortly before 0248 GMT (9:48 p.m. EST), followed in the ensuing minute by a peak temperature of 1700 degrees C. At about 0250 GMT (9:50 p.m. EST), the pilot stabilizing parachute will be deployed, while the main chute will be let loose about a minute later. At an altitude of roughly 800 feet, the airbags will be rapidly filled. Fifteen seconds later, landing on Mars' Isidis Plantia basin should occur. It is expected to take about two minutes for the lander to bounce and finally roll to a stop from its impact velocity of 36 miles per hour.
The craft will switch to lander software within about 10 minutes of touchdown, which will then initiate sequences to deflate the airbags and to open the probe's clamshell exterior.
The first opportunity to receive a signal from Beagle 2 on the surface is at approximately 0530 GMT (12:30 a.m. EST), when NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter passes overhead. If a signal is received, it can then be relayed back to ground controllers on Earth within an hour or two. The next possible chance to get data from Beagle will be late on Christmas night at about 2245 GMT (5:45 p.m. EST), when the Jodrell Bank Observatory in the United Kingdom will come into view.
As activities involving Beagle 2 hit their climax, a separate European Space Agency team of controllers will be overseeing the insertion of Mars Express into Martian orbit. A 31-minute long engine burn starting at 0247 GMT (9:47 p.m. EST), according to ESA, will slow the craft and guide it into orbit around Mars to begin its mission lasting about two years.
Its initial orbit is predicted to have a high point of about 7,000 miles, a low point of approximately 160 miles, and inclination of 86 degrees. The craft will gradually slide into a slightly less elliptical orbit throughout its mission. Information on the outcome of this critical insertion burn is expected within hours after it takes place.
Come back to this page for live play-by-play updates as we learn of the results from this historic Christmas gift for science.
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 19, 2003
Read our earlier Mission Status Center coverage.
Get e-mail updates
Sign up for our NewsAlert service and have the latest news in astronomy and space e-mailed direct to your desktop (privacy note: your e-mail address will not be used for any other purpose).
A reproduction of the official accident investigation report into the loss of the space shuttle Columbia and its crew of seven.
Choose your store:
U.S. - U.K. - E.U. - Worldwide
DISCOUNTED! This 360 degree image was taken by the Mars Pathfinder, which landed on the Red Planet in July 1997. The Sojourner Rover is visible in the image.
Choose your store:
Apollo 11 Mission Report
Apollo 11 - The NASA Mission Reports Vol. 3 is the first comprehensive study of man's first mission to another world is revealed in all of its startling complexity. Includes DVD!
Choose your store:
U.S. - U.K. - E.U. - Worldwide
If you've ever watched a launch from Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Vandenberg Air Force Base or even Kodiak Island Alaska, there's no better way to describe what you witnessed than with this DVD.
Choose your store:
U.S. - U.K. - E.U. - Worldwide
Available now from the Astronomy Now Store: the embroidered mission patch for NASA's Viking Project which reached the Red Planet in 1976.
Choose your store:
U.S. - U.K. - E.U. - Worldwide
Mars Rover mission patch
A mission patch featuring NASA's Mars Exploration Rover is now available from the Astronomy Now Store.
Choose your store:
U.S. - U.K. - E.U. - Worldwide
ERROR: Random File Unopenable
The file was not found on your file system. This means that
it has either not been created or the path you have specified
in $trrandom_file is incorrect.
INDEX | PLUS | NEWS ARCHIVE | LAUNCH SCHEDULE
ASTRONOMY NOW | STORE
© 2014 Spaceflight Now Inc.