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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."
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Construction Begins on Beagle 2

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  • What's new? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Jugalator (259273) on Wednesday August 07, 2002 @06:19AM (#4023975) Journal
    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".
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 07, 2002 @06:25AM (#4023986)
    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.
  • by Phillip P Barnett (250918) on Wednesday August 07, 2002 @06:49AM (#4024015)

    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.
  • by corleth (118672) on Wednesday August 07, 2002 @07:29AM (#4024092)
    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

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