Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
Space Science

Beagle 2 Probe Lands; No Signal Received Yet 364

securitas writes "The BBC reports that Europe's Beagle 2 Mars lander has failed to broadcast its landing confirmation signal. While project leaders are trying to put a brave face on it, the failure is seen as a major setback. The Beagle is out of broadcast range but another contact attempt will be made later today, when they hope a signal will be detected. Another failed Mars mission will solidify Mars' reputation as a spacecraft graveyard. More at icWales and News24."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Beagle 2 Probe Lands; No Signal Received Yet

Comments Filter:
  • Looks like Mars didn't like its gift this Season.

    Not much information is available on the net about more details on the landing. I guess the current Mars satellites don't have enough resolution for them to photograph the expected landing site
    • Re:Tough Christmas (Score:3, Interesting)

      by nutznboltz ( 473437 )
      I guess the current Mars satellites don't have enough resolution for them to photograph the expected landing site
      The old lunar orbiters did take pictures of the surveyor landers from orbit [nasa.gov]. I think the martian atmosphere would make this more difficult to do on Mars.
      • Re:Tough Christmas (Score:3, Informative)

        by nutznboltz ( 473437 )
        The caption for the pic here [nasa.gov] says that the surveyor moon lander is in a circle but it's not. To see the surveyor get the TIFF high-res image and look at the bottom of that image for a small white "boomerang". The "boomerang" is two of the three legs of the lander, the third is obscured by a black shadow cast by the solar panels.
  • by Epistax ( 544591 ) <epistax@gmai l . com> on Thursday December 25, 2003 @10:35AM (#7807864) Journal
    It's like space probes are from Venus and Mars is from.. umm..

  • by sznupi ( 719324 ) on Thursday December 25, 2003 @10:36AM (#7807866) Homepage
    We see thanks to them how far from safe manned flight we are. Once we perfect unmanned missions, we can try to go there ourselfes.
    • by Dolphinzilla ( 199489 ) on Thursday December 25, 2003 @10:48AM (#7807918) Journal
      I think thats a poor comparison - the Beagle 2 is a very low cost probe ad so are its landing systems - I don't believe we will ever use bouncing balls for a manned landing and a human is a much more adaptable landing computer than any automated system we could build (yet).
    • not insightful at all. unmanned probes and manned spacecraft have completely different design requirements and capabilities.

      what is does show is the danger that would be involved in some kind of retarded manned flight where the crew had no control over the spacecraft and were attemping to crash into Mars with airbags rather than the successful Moon method of going into orbit first and using a lander.
    • Once we perfect unmanned missions, we can try to go there ourselfes.

      Right. Good thing we sent all these probes to the moon so we could realize it wasn't safe to send men there ...
    • It is hard to make truely autonomous vehicles for landing many months journey away across a very inhosbitable environment. You cannot land an RPV on Mars because the lag is too high.

      Even Apollo 11 had problems landing that were not foreseen (priority inversion causing the lander's computer to be overloaded). It took flying by hand (also to avoid a ground hazard) to get the thing down.

      If people can get past the hazards of interplanetery space (think of soemthing with lots of fairly dense hydrogen to act

  • by plinius ( 714075 )
    Happy solstice and present-exchange day.
  • the failure is seen as a major setback

    It could be the greatest discovery of all time instead, actually : the discovery of life on the planet Mars.

    I mean, think about it, if you lived there and were regularly showered by huge retro-rockety or bouncy things from the monkeys on the planet next door, wouldn't you tear the probes apart with rage ?
    • wouldn't you tear the probes apart with rage

      Probably. I'd probably also let them know what was happening and why; at the very least, I'd make it apparent that their attentions were not wanted.

      Otherwise, there's no guarantee that those pesky, inquisitive monkeys won't just keep on and on sending ever-larger and tougher probes.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 25, 2003 @10:38AM (#7807876)
    The EU was using the metric system and the Martians are on the English system. Ft. lbs. != Newton meters.

    *rolls eyes*
  • From the bbc article... Despite more than 30 missions launched to the Red Planet since the 1960s, only three landers have ever reached the Martian surface successfully. Maybe instead of sending loads of cheap probes we should all pool our cash and build a really expensive one...
    • Re:Hmmm... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by SEE ( 7681 )
      The BBC's description is not entirely fair. Many of the missions did not even try to put a lander on the surface, but just do a flyby or go into orbit.

      The proper comparison is either how many of the 30 met mission goals, or how many of the lander attempts were successful. The success rate under either standard is much higher than the BBC quote would indicate.
    • Hehe. Funny stuff.

      Of course we could make a serious effort. First put a string of sattelites around mars so that we actually know what is going on there 24/7 and don't have to have blackouts in the communication. Then send some heavy probes the size of those russian capsules. You know the ones that routinly land safely on solid ground with fragile humans inside? No messing about with little parachutes and bouncing. Make it big make it heavy make it a bloody tank.

      And put a bloody nuclear reactor inside. Sm

    • by wass ( 72082 ) on Thursday December 25, 2003 @12:46PM (#7808327)
      BBC printed : "Despite more than 30 missions launched to the Red Planet since the 1960s, only three landers have ever reached the Martian surface successfully."

      This is kind of misleading. Of the 30 total missions to Mars, only nine were attempted landers. THis gives a lander failulre rate of 1/3 instead of 1/10, which BBC implies. The other 21 craft were orbiters and the like.

      On a further note, I felt BBC did indulge in nationalistic bias as of yesterday, which people in Slashdot previously praised them of not doing with this story. Firstly, there's the misleading lander success rate above. They also compared to the successful US missions, calling them costly and implying wasteful. Although now that they cannot get a signal from the craft they took this bit out of the story.

      This is misleading because the two Viking landers were built decades ago using even older technology. The more recent Mars Pathfinder event was, however, on a cheaper budget, part of a Nasa Discovery Mission, which built/tested the craft for 150 million. This approach included researching the parachute/airbag landing, which the Beagle 2 was able to imitate. ALso, comparing the cost of building a rover (Pathfinder) vs. a robot arm (Beagle) isnt' fair as a rover is much more complex.

      On a different note, all hope is not lost yet. There are still banks of receiver antennas in case the Beagle's antenna is pointing the wrong way such that NASA's Mars Odyssey craft couldn't pick it up.

  • by n0mad6 ( 668307 ) on Thursday December 25, 2003 @10:42AM (#7807892)
    ...A Martian parent whose christmas shopping was running late manages to get "a great deal" on an expensive Earth-made toy for his/her child...
  • by reallocate ( 142797 ) on Thursday December 25, 2003 @10:46AM (#7807909)
    Reuters isn't the only one jumping the gun. Yahoo is headlining this story as "lost in space".

    It's premature to call the failure to hear the initial signal as a "major setback". For Reuters to do so without attributed that assessment to anyone is sloopy journalism. Why would anyone care what Reuters thinks?
  • Mars Missions (Score:5, Informative)

    by rufey ( 683902 ) on Thursday December 25, 2003 @10:47AM (#7807915)
    From an article on msnbc [msn.com].

    Major Mars missions, 1964 to 2004:

    1964 U.S. launches Mariner 3, which fails after liftoff.

    1964 U.S. launches Mariner 4. First successful Mars fly-by in July 1965. The craft returns the first pictures of the Martian surface.

    1964 Soviets launch Zond 2. Mars fly-by. Contact lost in May 1965.

    1969 U.S. launches Mariner 6 and 7. The two spacecraft fly by Mars in July and August 1969 and send back images and data.

    1971 Soviets launch Mars 2. Orbiter and lander reach Mars in November 1971. Lander crashes but orbiter sends back images and data.

    1971 U.S. launches Mariner 8, which fails during liftoff.

    1971 U.S. launches Mariner 9. Orbiter reaches Mars in November 1971, provides global mapping of Martian surface and studies atmosphere.

    1973 Soviets launch Mars 5. Orbiter reaches Mars in February 1974 and collects data.

    1975 U.S. launches Viking 1 and Viking 2. The two orbiter/lander sets reach Mars in 1976. Orbiters image Martian surface. Landers send back images and take surface samples.

    1992 U.S. launches Mars Observer. Contact lost with orbiter in August 1993, three days before scheduled insertion into Martian orbit.

    1996 U.S. launches Mars Global Surveyor. Orbiter reaches Mars in September 1997 and maps the planet. Still in operation.

    1996 Soviets launch Mars 96, which fails after launch and falls back into Earth's atmosphere.

    1996 U.S. launches Mars Pathfinder. Lander and rover arrive on Mars in July 1997, in the most-watched space event ever. Lander sends back thousands of images, and Sojourner rover roams the surface, sending back 550 images.

    1998 Japan launches Nozomi. Orbiter suffers glitch in December 1998, forcing circuitous course correction. Mission fails in 2003.

    1998 U.S. launches Mars Climate Orbiter. Spacecraft destroyed while entering Martian orbit in September 1999.

    1999 U.S. launches Mars Polar Lander. Contact lost with lander during descent in December 1999. Two microprobes "hitchhiking" on lander also fail.

    2001 U.S. launches Mars Odyssey. Orbiter reaches Mars in October 2001 to detect water and shallow buried ice and study the environment. It can also act as a communications relay for future Mars landers.

    2003 European Space Agency launches Mars Express. Orbiter and lander to arrive at Mars in December 2003.

    2003 U.S. launches Mars Expedition Rovers. Spirit and Opportunity rovers due to land on Mars in January 2004.

    • Re:Mars Missions (Score:5, Informative)

      by BigGerman ( 541312 ) on Thursday December 25, 2003 @11:38AM (#7808111)
      you missed a pair of Soviet probes in 1988:

      http://www.space.com/sciencefiction/phenomena/fobo s_mystery_000630.html

      The second one disappeared after recording mile-wide oval objects in space ;-)

    • 1996 Soviets launch Mars 96, which fails after launch and falls back into Earth's atmosphere.

      Reminds me of the episode of Gilligan's Island where a Mars probe lands on the island, and JPL thinks its on Mars. That same day the castaways were collectiong feathers to make Lovee's dress and also accidently left the fire on under a brew of glue used to repair the shattered probe lens. The glue pot exploded, taking the feathers with it and landing and sticking on the castaways. JPL thought they were looking a
  • It is worrying, yes, but it really is not the end of the world.

    There are already 2 functional spacecrafts - Mars Global Surveyor and Odyssey in orbit. And Mars Express, Spirit, and Opportunity will be arriving soon.

    Surely 5 spacecrafts will be able to pick any signal the Beagle may be broadcasting, or otherwise find signs of the wrecks.

    Ironically my pc was playing Joy to the World when I read this... the downside of scheduling this kind of things around this time. WinAmp was promptly shut down.

  • by SEE ( 7681 ) on Thursday December 25, 2003 @10:50AM (#7807925) Homepage
    because their country uses metric units!

    * The Soviet Union used metric units, and all of their probes failed except one. So did the '96 Russian mission.

    * The Customary-using U.S.'s Mariner 4, 6, 7, and 9 worked, as did Viking 1 and 2, and Mars Observer; only Mariner 3 of the Mars missions failed.

    * The U.S. Federal Government most far-reaching metrification laws went into effect after Observer was launched, and things have been 50-50 since, reflecting the semi-converted state of the U.S.

    Obviously, there is a direct correlation between societal use of metric units and failure of Mars missions! If we are to explore the Red Planet, we must de-metrify now!
    • by SEE ( 7681 )
      Interesting? I was trying to be funny. Sure, there's a correlation, but it's a silly one.
  • by securitas ( 411694 ) on Thursday December 25, 2003 @10:51AM (#7807928) Homepage Journal

    michael [slashdot.org], not to nitpick on the slightly altered headline, but the "Beagle 2 Probe Lands" is little inaccurate. They just don't know if it landed - that's why they are hoping to receve the landing confirmation signal.

    From the article:

    The worst case scenario is that Beagle has crashed and is lying in fragments strewn across the Martian surface.

    Well, I suppose that could be considered a landing of sorts. :)

  • Control Room Webcast (Score:3, Informative)

    by tipiyano ( 709370 ) on Thursday December 25, 2003 @10:55AM (#7807938)
    They were webcasting live [capcave.com] throughtout the mission. It was very exciting to follow. Lots of good information in those videos.

    And, find out here what options they have to communicate with beagle [beagle2.com]

  • But by 6:15 a.m. (1:15 a.m. EST) the rocket passed out of the potential signal range without hearing anything.

    The orbiters are slightly more advanced than a mere rocket. I wish the press would stop dumbing things down, I would think the majority of their audience graduated grade school.
  • Well my new DVD player is broken too! Guess we'll be both in line at Best Buy tomorrow!
  • More Information (Score:5, Informative)

    by rufey ( 683902 ) on Thursday December 25, 2003 @10:58AM (#7807950)
    All have fairly up-to-date news and status of attempts to contact Beagle 2 and the Mars Express orbiter.

    Beagle 2's official [beagle2.com] site.

    Space.com's Mars Rover [space.com] section.

    European Space Agency's Mars Express [esa.int] website.

  • Live feeds from esa (Score:2, Informative)

    by CoreDump01 ( 558675 ) *
    If anyone here has problems viewing the videos at
    go download the latest Real codec from here
    http://www1.mplayerhq.hu/MPlayer/releases/codecs /
    and use Xine to play them back.

    Did i mention that RealOne/linux is a POS?
  • Viking Lander (Score:5, Interesting)

    by freeio ( 527954 ) on Thursday December 25, 2003 @10:59AM (#7807959) Homepage
    Long ago and far away, while I was in college full time (Cal Poly Pomona) I payed for it by working full time swing shift at the Perkin Elmer plant in Pomona, California. As an environmental test technician, I got to see designed and built the mass spectrometer which was used in the Viking Landers, which successfully landed on Mars, and which worked when they arrived.

    The thing which stands out about these old birds (this was the mid-1970s, mind you) is that they were very rugged, and very simple electronically, by our standards. Most of the electronics were analog, and the electronic technologies used were huge, robust, massive pieces of silicon - by today's standards. The components were all tested beyond all reason, the modules were tested just as hard, and the final assemblies were tested more so. It cost a fortune - but it did work when it got there.

    Mars is a hard target. We know that now, and it has become apparent that the statistics speak against getting there on the cheap.

    Faster, better, cheaper - which two did you want?

  • It's a bit early to write the probe off. We'll see.

    However, as written up on the BBC and previsouly discussed on /., there were some budget and time constraints and funding did not sound as strong as it should have been for a mission this complex.

    Faster, Better, Cheaper -- Pick Two.

    Just because NASA claimed they could do all three in the 1990's (promptly losing a Mars Mission), doesn't mean it's true.

    If Beagle 2 turns out to be a fialure, I think Faster and Cheaper will turn out to be culprits.
  • I have been unable to get top BBC news since yesterday - "connection refused". Is anyone else experiencing the same? BBC itself is fine, just the news site.

    Surely not ./'ed! :-)

  • Everyone seems to think that Beagle is lost.

    However, they weren't necessarily expecting a signal today. publically they say they aren't that worried -perhaps it needs more time to unpack itself... because of its low power capacity, it can only do one thing at a time.

    However, it nothing has been recieved tomorrow - boxing day - then hopes start to fade.

  • Not over yet (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Naomi_the_butterfly ( 707218 ) on Thursday December 25, 2003 @11:10AM (#7807998)
    all these bad jokes about martians etc... yawn Remember, people, the first contact through Odyssey was considered a bit of a long shot... it should have been successful but it wasn't a sure thing. there are 6 more communications attempts programmed into Beagle 2, and Mars Express (the orbiter) was successful. the next communications attempt is in a bit under 7 hours. it's VERY possible that Beagle 2 is just at a funny angle or still charging from the solar panels in order to communicate. Let's not jump straight to 'major failure' etc.
  • by Kenneth Stephen ( 1950 ) on Thursday December 25, 2003 @11:15AM (#7808016) Journal

    Pardon we while I dissent with the group claiming that this failure (if it indeed it gets confirmed to be a failure) is one that is part and parcel of a complex engineering endeavour. From one of the links in an earlier /. story :

    Winds on Mars are unpredictable but they must be low while Beagle enters. Too much wind and Beagle will probably not survive. Its landing site has already been changed once to avoid a region of high winds.

    The consequence of such a failure? Loss of spacecraft. Workaround? None mentioned. How can one trust the weather on Mars when the weather on earth isnt that predictable either? More stuff :

    When Beagle gets to the surface its power is almost spent and it must immediately open up and expose its solar panels to the sunlight to charge its batteries and run its systems. Too much of a delay and it will die. ... Beagle survives on the energy from its solar panels and has no way to clean them if they get dirty because of, say, a dust storm. And there are dust storms brewing on Mars.

    Consequence of this problem : loss of spacecraft. Workaround : none mentioned.

    I come from the software world, and we call this as shipping with severity 1 defects. That is - there exists a defect in a product that can compromise its mission and there exists no work around for the defect. If you spend x dollars on a widget and a sev 1 defect is triggered, your $x is gone to that mystical money bucket in the sky.

    I'm not assigning blame to any one particular group - they all contributed. Undoubtedly, sev 1 problems could have been addressed had a bigger budget been available. So in that sense, it is a problem that originated in the funding and management channels. On the other hand, the engineers who ship with sev 1 defects also have a responsibility to make sure that the funders understand that the existence of sev 1 defects can lead to a total waste of time and money. It might even have been better to not make the attempt.

    • by Tim C ( 15259 ) on Thursday December 25, 2003 @11:35AM (#7808099)
      It might even have been better to not make the attempt.

      Don't lose sight of the point of this mission - which is to gather data from the sruface of Mars. I understand what you're saying, but if you don't even make the attempt, then you've definitely failed to accomplish your primary goal. At least by trying, even with such serious defects, you stand some chance.

      Also, don't forget the way in which government funding works sometimes, ie use it or lose it. This may have been a one-off chance, use the money now, or don't, and have no guarantee of getting any more in the future.

      I was at university when a rocket exploded shortly after lift off, destroying a European probe a few years ago (this would've been mid-90s). Our department's astro group had designed and created one of the experiments that was on board, and our then head of department was also the head of that group. It happened the day before a department meeting at which he was supposed to give a speech; he was too upset to attend. My point being that the scientists have a hell of a lot invested in this sort of thing; they wouldn't go ahead with something if they didn't think that they had at least a fighting chance of it working.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I can`t address the weather aspect but I can make a general comment about the design of Beagle. There have been at least a couple of lengthy documentaries about the development of Beagle on the Open University in the U.K. . Basically, what you have to remember is that Beagle is _tiny_ and because it is so very small there are significant design constraints - if you`d heard some of the demands made of the team in terms of weight reduction you would have thought Beagle would never have got this far. All the p
      • I think you are missing the point. If you combine all the choices you have to make and in the end you still end up with sev 1 issues, then you should consider the fact that your mission is impossible to achieve and abort in the planning / design stage.

        PS. I should have made the headline read "Shipping with known sev 1 defects". sev 1 defects are not preventable. But its the ones that are known to you when you design / plan that I'm talking about.

    • I think it is like it is with anything - you look at the cost of making the craft more survivable and compare it to the cost of the mission itself.

      The solution may be to make ultra-cheap landers and then launch one of them every week during the window, and do this once or twice a year until one makes it through. You could even target different places on the surface for each one so that if one does land the additional ones in trail go to other interesting places.

      On the other hand, if the cost of fuel, par
  • by MtViewGuy ( 197597 ) on Thursday December 25, 2003 @11:20AM (#7808031)

    I think what may have happened to Beagle 2 was that it may have been damaged by the dust storms that are occurring on the planet right now.

    Does anyone remember the Mars 3 probe the Soviets launched in the early 1970's? It had the unfortunate experience of trying to put a lander on Mars in a completely automated manner right in the middle of one of the worst planet-wide dust storms to hit the planet and the probe never functioned properly after landing. We were very fortunate that the two Viking landers and Mars Pathfinder landed on Mars during periods of benign weather on the planet.

    Because these dust storms can last for three to five months, I do have major concerns that the two upcoming NASA landers may suffer the same fate as Beagle 2--trying to land in a major dust storm. =(

    (By the way, one of reasons why the two Viking landers succeeded was that they stay attached to the Viking orbiter until after orbit insertion. That allowed NASA engineers to carefully look at landing sites with the orbiter cameras to find a safe landing spot. If Mars Express had been designed this way they probably would have not allowed Beagle 2 to land until the dust storms on the planet subsided.)
    • This has been said before in some above posts but obviously needs to be said again, BEAGLE WAS NOT IN ANY DANGER FROM THE DUST STORM ON MARS. The dust storm which started on ~ December 14th. has been winding down (look at the Mars Global Surveyor's Thermal Emission Spectrometer [asu.edu] images to see current atmospheric dust levels) in the past week and was nowhere near the beagle 2 landing site for most of its duration anyway. Anyway, the USSR's Mars 3 Lander probe is thought to have probably never even transmitte
  • Maybe now all you fools who were so gleefully chanting that Europe was leading the space race (with a single probe, forgetting Phobos, and forgetting the half-dozen US probes that have actually hit the dirt and sent radio signals back) will have a little perspective now. The space race isn't about whose nation gets there first, or who is in the lead, because it's all about humanity. And guess what - failure is not an option, but it is an eventuality.
  • by *SpOoNdRiFt* ( 722914 ) on Thursday December 25, 2003 @11:28AM (#7808069)
    I'm assuming the Beagle2 made it to the surface but was unlucky in where it landed. If the Beagle had landed at an akward angle, unable to open it's solar array- wouldn't the Martian wind eventually move it around? It only weighs 160 pounds or so, and the avg winds on Mars is about 20mph but gets up to 60 often and in the 100's during storms. I'm sure a fail-safe was included in the plan in the event the Lander couldn't open-RIGHT?? Are the batteries required to open the panels.. or do they spring? If they spring open the mission can be started then! On another note ... I bet NASA is considering changing the landing position of one of the US rovers to rendezvous with the Beagle2. That would be awesome! Don't give up!
    • Speed? Check.
      Density? Nope.

      Yes the wind speed on Mars can be huge... but the air is so vapid that it really can't impart much energy to anything.

      If you've seen the designs of the Mars drone airplanes, you'll notice they share a lot of design features in common with the U2 spyplane... because both fly in atmospheres where the air is so sparse that the planes need huge wing areas and huge airspeeds just to get a modicum of lift.
  • The body of the article says "Beagle 2 Mars lander has failed to broadcast its landing confirmation signal", but it should more correctly read that the "Beagle 2 Mars lander landing confirmation signal has not been received". They have no way to know at this point if it was broadcast or not - they simply did not pick it up when expected using a piece of equipment they aren't certain would pick it up anyways.

    Jodrell Bank (I believe Britain's largest radio telescope) should be able to pick it up if it is out
  • ... and nothing has been heard? Honestly, who in their right minds would have key communication for their project lie with the agency (NASA) that stands to be most embarassed by any Beagle success? You can bet China will not entrust anything important to NASA.

    The one hope is that Jodrell picks up something ... assuming they don't get jammed.

    Love a good conspiracy.

  • We're talking about this [slashdot.org] probe. What did you expect?
  • little green men, but have you ever thought that these things could just fail because the project teams on the grounds are just full of jerks?

    I have worked in some fields of science and the tech industry, too, it's like Dilbert in many ways, and I don't see why jerks like that shouldn't build our space probes, too.

    Just think of the Ariane 5 maiden flight failure that cost a billion bucks or so and how you'd have to be a complete jerk to fuck up the thing the way they did, I'll dig out the story if someone i

  • by Cochonou ( 576531 ) on Thursday December 25, 2003 @12:42PM (#7808312) Homepage
    Even if a confirmation of the failure of Beagle 2 would be a huge disappointment, we have to keep in mind that Mars Express has successfully swooped into Mars' orbit.
    And even if the most spectacular experiments were to be conducted by Beagle 2, Mars Express carries numerous instruments :
    A sub-surface sounding radar which could be used to find ice under the surface,
    a high resolution stereo camera to analyse further the topology of Mars,
    visible, infrared and ultraviolet spectrometers to analyse the composition of the surface and the atmosphere,
    and an "Energetic Neutral Atoms Analyser" to quantify the interactions between solar winds and martian atmosphere.

    Rejoice ! We and scientists will still get our christmas present !
  • by GreggBert ( 89663 ) on Thursday December 25, 2003 @01:02PM (#7808392) Homepage Journal
    How long before we see another one of these landers for sale , dirt cheap, on eBay (Buyer must arrange their own shipping) ?
  • by angel'o'sphere ( 80593 ) on Thursday December 25, 2003 @02:20PM (#7808702) Journal

    likely BBC exagerate or the story poster did.
    Beagle has entered the atmossphere ... about the touch down we do not know so far. The reason is: the first craft able to pick up Beagel hail signal "by chance" was Mars Odyssey. Mars Odyssey did not pick up a signal.

    Thats what we know.

    So. The plan is that Mars Express, the mothership of Beagel, will make contact to Beagle TODAY -- not 20 hours before!! -- around 22:40 GMT. After 22:40 GMT we will know if Beagle touched down successfully.

    For more information look at: www.esa.int, and follow the link to the web stream http://esa.capcave.com/esa/marsexpress/

    However, making contact to Beagle is not the primary goal right now. Mars express is supposed to perform two important manouvers first: Appogee reduction(currently we are in a 10 day orbit), to get the orbit more circular instead of a high ellipse, and second: an orbit inclination change manouver to get the currently equatorial orbit inot a polar orbit.

    Its well possible(I dont know the orbit data) that after the orbit is polar it will take several days until Mars Express is in an orbit position to pick up Beagels signals.

    After the craft is in polar orbit, it will do about 9 further manouvers to reduce its 100,000 km orbit into a 11,000 km orbit. Then .. finally .. it is in survey orbit for Mars and in a regular contact with Beagle.


APL hackers do it in the quad.