Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Space Science

Construction Begins on Beagle 2 171

Posted by timothy
from the planetary-galapagos dept.
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."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Construction Begins on Beagle 2

Comments Filter:
  • Electrics? (Score:5, Funny)

    by mccalli (323026) on Wednesday August 07, 2002 @06:14AM (#4023968) Homepage
    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

  • "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 (Score:2, Informative)

      by corleth (118672)
      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. :(
    • 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.

      • one question how do you get it to the launch pad so that it does not come into contact with anything earth related?
        • Thank you. This is exactly what I was wondering when I read this. It is a long way up, and I am pretty sure they cannot guarentee a microbe free take-off. Than again, maybe they will jetision the hull once in space?
          • This is only one way, and may not be the way they choose, but it'd work. First, build the probe in sterile conditions (they got that part). Next, encase it in an airtight package. Then transport and mount the package. Hit it with X-rays at the mount points (if you design the package correctly you can do that without compromising the payload). After launch, before the boost to take it to interplanetary trajectory, jettison the package shell, leaving just the booster (that you can dump before orbital insertion at Mars) and the payload/deorbit engines, which were encased in the package and so are germ-free.

            Virg
  • What's new? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Jugalator (259273)
    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".
    • 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? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by flyingdisc (598575)
      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.

    • 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]

  • "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

  • by Anonymous Coward
    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.
    • 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.
    • 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.

    • 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

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


    • 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.
      • 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.

    • 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.
      • 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 :)
        • 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
      • 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.

      • 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 ?
        • 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.

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

      • 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

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

          Sure, traditional rockets are cheaper to launch sattelites or probes, but the shuttles do much more than that. They can retreive satellites and perform repairs.

          I agree that it would be silly to use the shuttle for everything, but NASA doesn't, they still use normal rockets for satellites and probes. The shuttle does have a use though, and it is good at it's job..
          • Agreed, the shuttle does have some advantages, particularly as far as retreival of satellites is concerned. However, it has been significantly more expensive that planned and, as such, other areas of spacecraft development have suffered in NASA, allowing ESA, Russia and Japan to undercut them in most areas in terms of value for money, especially in the case of heavy-lifting. As a result I think that ESA are unlikely to start using shuttles in the near future.
            -Karl
    • 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

    • 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.

  • What's New (Score:5, Interesting)

    by barberio (42711) on Wednesday August 07, 2002 @06:45AM (#4024010) Homepage
    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.
    • 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...
      • 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.
      • 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.
    • 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.

  • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • This is not true. Space exploration has effectively stopped when the cold war ended. Rivalry actually is the only thing tat fuel space ambitions. Actualy the race to space has been, in the history of mankind, the only time when competition has created science and technology developpement in a pacific fashion. It is a shame that it has ended. The more unchallenged the US feels, the more they cut NASA budget.
  • Darwin (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    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
  • 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!

    • > That sounds all well and good - but what about non-organic contamination?

      This is a lot easier to detect and compensate for, since the reactions involved are only chemical in nature.

      > 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?

      These things would actually be good for science, and the mission. The goal is not to avoid any contamination of the Red Planet (if it was, we'd have to find a way to get back all of the ships we've already sent!) but to avoid biological contamination, since that's more unpredictable and can also compromise any search for Martian life. However, if a silicone boot reacts with Martian soil, that would be scientifically significant, since it would indicate that there's some chemical (or other) reason for it to happen, despite our not expecting it, which would in turn point to some compound or process on Mars we've never encountered on Earth. The same goes for alloy components and engine exhaust, since if there's something in the Martian atrmosphere that affects aluminum struts in an unexpected way, we'd want to know what that something is, both for any future Mars missions and for possible use on Earth.

      > 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!

      From a biological standpoint, this mission is specifically being designed and built to be non-obtrusive, which is why it's being planned and built to minimize the possibility of Earthly contamination. A lump of sterile metal and plastic is not likely to have any effect on Martian biological organisms, other than the joking reference I saw in a comic book where life had just formed on Mars, and the creature raised its appendage for the first time, only to have a Terran probe with "Search for Martian Life" painted on the side land on it and squash it.

      Virg
  • Website (Score:5, Informative)

    by corleth (118672) on Wednesday August 07, 2002 @07:03AM (#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
  • Clean room launch... (Score:2, Informative)

    by MosesJones (55544)
    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
    • > 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.

    • 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 (Score:2, Interesting)

    by shd99004 (317968)
    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 (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Xilman (191715)
      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

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

      In a word, yes. Microbes (and bigger stuff) have survived in hard vacuum space for long times (the mold growing on the outside of Mir and stuff (from Earth) found contaminating parts brought back from Moon missions are two examples).

      > 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?

      While it's possible, it's not very likely. First, Earth has a much denser atmosphere, which has two dampening effects. First, less stuff gets to impact on the surface, since stuff that would penetrate to the surface of Mars would get eaten by friction on the way to Earth. Even when something gets to the ground, the ejected material has to plow its way back up through that same thicker, higher-air-drag atmosphere to get away, which means the same impact is less likely to send off ejecta with sufficient force to clear the atmosphere. Then, of course, there's the fact that Earth is bigger, so even without the atmosphere, it takes more to break free of the gravity well, so stuff that's just sufficient to get clear of Mars and come visit us would not be able to get free of us for the trip to Mars.

      > 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?

      If such an event were to happen, it's again possible but not likely for life to survive, since the life that made the trip would have to be hardy enough to survive extremely high and extremely low temperatures and be anaerobic. Such organisms do exist, however, so there's no ruling it out. As to time frames, under the best circumstances (distance between planets and impact points as small as possible and optimal factors for weather and such) the trip would still be measured in years, possibly decades and very likely centuries.

      Virg
  • 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".
    • 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.
  • When one of the scientists says "and bring some martian life back."
  • Currupt the Martian Enviroment..... So we can move their in a million years.

    -LW, a truly insane flake with god like leet networking skilz
  • 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.
    • 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"
  • by Anonymous Coward
    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!

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

    No, really.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    just so they could say when it touches down:

    THE BEAGLE HAS LANDED

    ???
  • Good grief!
  • The clean room thing is a nice idea -- let's not bring any bacteria that we didn't want to. But what if we were to bring some in a controlled manner, in some sort of container? We could scoop up some soil, inject some life, and see if it survives. We could even kill it and seal it up for good at the end of the experiment.

    The question of whether or not there is life on Mars is a good one. But nobody's really ever thought about seeing if Earthly bacteria can live there. Anyone got any good reasons not to do that sort of experiment?
  • I couldn't help but think:

    One small step for Snoopy, one giant leap for Beaglekind!

    Charles Schultz would've been proud...
  • Why is it that sequels are always so much inferior to their originals? Forget movies, consider any event, ship, whatever that has been named after something of antiquity, such as the Beagle. In the original Beagle, people went to the Galapagos (and other points) to, in part, do scientific research. There's almost zero chance that this experiment will have as earth shaking results as the theory of evolution was. (Even finding life on Mars would not be all that earth shaking. Really Earth shaking would be determining whether it was completely unrelated to Earth life. You need a really good molecular biologist to tell that.)

    I don't mean for this to be a rant that we need to send humans to do research (though we do). I mean to say that the really impressive results will always come from originally named ships and experiments. Say... like Clamentine finding water on the moon. Much less contraversial...

  • What's the point of the clean room if once it's launched it has to be taken out of the clean room? And it will get 'contaminated' anyways?

As far as we know, our computer has never had an undetected error. -- Weisert

Working...