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Space Science

Jodrell Bank Telescope Gets No Signal From Beagle 425

tipiyano writes "Continuing the story of Beagle 2 from earlier today it seems like the hope for Beagle 2 surviving the landing at Mars is reducing as the Jodrell Bank telescope didn't receive any signal from Beagle. In the words of a mission manager, 'I wasn't too worried about the missed link with Odyssey, but it starts getting serious if Jodrell Bank cannot get a signal either'."
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Jodrell Bank Telescope Gets No Signal From Beagle

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  • Wow... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Eric_Cartman_South_P ( 594330 ) on Friday December 26, 2003 @12:01AM (#7810768)
    Makes all of those lame "NO CARRIER" posts seem all the more serious when NASA has the same pro%#$@#&!*^J@^ATDT[NO CARRIER]

  • DOA (Score:2, Funny)

    by the arbiter ( 696473 )
    Looks like the Martians got another one...
  • That bouncing a spacecraft is just a bad idea? We're waht - one for 3? The old viking probes had a much better track record!
    • by cascino ( 454769 ) on Friday December 26, 2003 @12:12AM (#7810836) Homepage
      If I remember correctly, we're 1 for 2 with the "bouncing spacecraft" idea (Pathfinder was successful, it looks like Beagle was not). Of the two failures in 2001, neither craft used the inflated-airbag approach; the lander used the old Viking method of landing (ie: rocket braking), while the orbiter simply went off course.
      I'm sure the Europeans are using a slightly different design than the Americans anyways, so from a NASA point of view, it's actually 1 for 1. We'll see within the next month whether this method is worthwhile or not.
    • Airbags are still more cost effective than trying for a soft landing. The 2 Viking probes cost how much, like a billion? Beagle 2 cost only $62 million (or maybe it was in pounds, I forget). So if Britain built 16 Beagle probes (for $992 million) and sent them to Mars, it would cost about the same, but cover more of the planet than the Viking landers. Even if only a third survived, lets say just 3 since you can't a fraction of a working probe, it still covers one more spot than Viking.
    • by applemasker ( 694059 ) on Friday December 26, 2003 @12:14AM (#7810844)
      Try 1 for 1, not counting Beagle or the current Spirit and Opportunity probes.

      The other failures did not involve airbags - Mars Observer was an orbiter that went silent some kind of problem with the thrusters is suspected to be the cause, but we'll never know for sure; Mars Climate Orbiter got crispy over the metric/imperial units mixup during aerobraking/orbit insertion; and Mars Polar Lander did, in fact, attempt a Viking-like powered descent and it's theorized that when the landing legs deployed and locked, they incorrectly signaled the guidance system that the craft had landed, and the engine cut off too early, and it fell from a height of some 50m.

    • by mijok ( 603178 ) on Friday December 26, 2003 @12:29AM (#7810893)
      No, they were luckier. If you've looked at the pictures they took one of them (I don't remember if it was 1 or 2) landed right next to a rock which was big enough to break the probe if it had landed on it. I remember seeing an interview with an engineer involved in the mission - he explained that all they could do was pick the safest looking area but the images taken from orbit were nowhere near good enough to spot such rocks (not to mention that they didn't have the precision to avoid them either).
    • by SharpFang ( 651121 ) on Friday December 26, 2003 @12:46AM (#7810956) Homepage Journal
      It is now official - Jordell Bank has confirmed: Beagle2 is dying

      Yet another crippling bombshell hit the beleaguered Mars exploration community when recently ESA confirmed that Beagle2 accounts for less than a fraction of 1 percent of chances for survival. Coming on the heels of the latest Jordell Bank signal analysis which plainly states that Beagle2 has lost radio contact, this news serves to reinforce what we've known all along. Beagle2 is collapsing in complete disarray, as fittingly exemplified by failing dead last in the recent radiotelescope comprehensive signal search.

      You don't need to be a Aldrin to predict Beagle2's future. The hand writing is on the wall: Beagle2 faces a bleak future. In fact there won't be any future at all for Beagle2 because Beagle2 is dying. Things are looking very bad for Beagle2. As many of us are already aware, Beagle2 continues to lose power. Red dust covers it like a river of blood. The lander rover is the most endangered of them all, having lost 93% of its core systems. The sudden and unpleasant failures of long time rover systems of traction and cameras only serve to underscore the point more clearly. There can no longer be any doubt: Beagle2 is dying.

      Let's keep to the facts and look at the numbers.

      All major surveys show that Beagle2 has steadily declined in survival chances. Beagle2 is very sick and its long term survival prospects are very dim. If Beagle2 is to survive at all it will be among martian hobbyist junk collectors. Beagle2 continues to decay. Nothing short of a miracle could save it at this point in time. For all practical purposes, Beagle2 is dead.

      Fact: Beagle2 is dead
  • by Valar ( 167606 ) on Friday December 26, 2003 @12:03AM (#7810781)
    forgot the double-A's again this Christmas...
  • But what about the Beagle's problems? It's all alone on Mars and probably can't signal back it's existence.

    Poor thing.
  • Bummer (Score:3, Interesting)

    by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Friday December 26, 2003 @12:04AM (#7810787) Journal
    But the truth is, this is rocket science. Here is to hoping that the explorers do better.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 26, 2003 @12:05AM (#7810790)
    1. The Europeans are as incompetent as the Americunts (naaaaaah!)
    2. There is something on Mars which hates space probes!
  • by Faust7 ( 314817 ) on Friday December 26, 2003 @12:06AM (#7810803) Homepage
    Flight managers ... said they had narrowed Beagle-2's likely landing area to an ellipse just 30 kilometers wide and 5 kilometers long

    Yes. All over that area.
  • by glomph ( 2644 ) on Friday December 26, 2003 @12:06AM (#7810804) Homepage Journal
    for the Martian Air Defenses!

    (Wonder if they buy their flying-saucer fuel from Halliburton?)

  • by Anonymous Coward
    1. I think Martians found out what happened to American Natives (American Indians). So they figured they don't want to be annihilated the same way. So they are shooting down the probes. Intelligent life will not try to contact humans. The probes that landed had their cameras pointed to desolate areas to deter humans from thinking about trying to colonize Mars.

    2. Perhaps building space probes should be outsourced to India .. better... cheaper etc.. I think?
  • One more reason... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by brinticus ( 581532 ) on Friday December 26, 2003 @12:10AM (#7810825)
    ...why a human launch to Mars is not quite ready for prime time. This is very difficult to stomach, seeing how the scientists must be devistated. But it would be much worse if there were humans on the other end of the bad news. My hope now is that the US can get *both* of it's robots down on the surface to make up for this (probable) great loss to science.

    -- "Technology is most likely to let you down when you need it most." (Montgomery's axiom)
    • by kbonin ( 58917 ) on Friday December 26, 2003 @12:27AM (#7810889) Homepage
      I'd have to disagree - one of the basic advantages of sending humans is that if a computer decides to shut off the engines 50m in the air, a human would be smart enough to turn them back on and land the thing.

      Remember the first moon landing? Armstrong saw the rocks at the site were too big and numerous, and flew it somewhere safer...

      There are advantages to sending humans, and enough lost space missions could pay for one Mars Direct launch...
      • by mOoZik ( 698544 ) on Friday December 26, 2003 @01:09AM (#7811073) Homepage
        Let's not forget the moon was thoroughly studied by spacecraft before a single person was sent. Also, it had no atmosphere, so there was never the problem of entry and friction and all that good stuff. Of course, a human can possibly take into account factors which the computer might not, but as of now, no manned space re-entry vehicle lands under human control: they're all automated. It is just too much for us to handle.

  • It's looking more and more as if the Martians have installed a "lander-zapper," much akin to our bug-zappers.


    "Whoo! That was a good one, Earl-tar."
    "Yeah, the ones from that northern continent sure seem to burn good."
  • by mekkab ( 133181 ) * on Friday December 26, 2003 @12:16AM (#7810850) Homepage Journal
    From This guy from MetaFilter []: It probably will fail.

    The balloons used to cushion the fall were never tested. The original balloons failed testing and they didn't have time to test the replacements.

    Wow! Sounds like the way to run a space program.
  • Maybe it's suffering from the BSOD and no one is there to hit ctrl-alt-del?
  • by cybermace5 ( 446439 ) <> on Friday December 26, 2003 @12:18AM (#7810857) Homepage Journal
    Seems like the Beagle team should have coughed up the cash for a Monster Cable surge protector [].
  • Suggestion: Venus (Score:2, Interesting)

    by argoff ( 142580 )
    I myself am a fan of going to Venus instead - one advantage is that it would be alot softer to land a balloon in the upper atmosphere of venus than on mars. But my main motivation is that I think Venus would be more suitable for human habitation.

    Venus (in the upper atmosphere) has nearly the same temperature, air pressure, gravity, and light as earth. Even though it has a lot of sulfuric acid (and CO2) - that is a lot easier to deal with than the cold hard vacume rock of Mars. With enough energy - lots
    • Re:Suggestion: Venus (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Megor1 ( 621918 )
      Uh Mars has an atmosphere...

      And probes have been sent to Venus in the past, guess what happens when you put a probe in sulpheric acid? It lasts about 23 minutes before being destroyed ( [])
      • And probes have been sent to Venus in the past, guess what happens when you put a probe in sulpheric acid? It lasts about 23 minutes before being destroyed

        That article was ambiguious, but other information I read indicated that the reason that the probe immediately failed was becasue of the 400C temperature on the surface. I would not recommend a presence on the surface either.

      • This is your space probe on Earth, then on Venus [].

        I wish I could find the sequence I saw in an old astronomy textbook of mine. It was four or five photos, and by the fifth one, the visible parts of the lander had been reduced to a pile of slag.
    • Venus is what Earth used to be, before first life. Mars is what Earth may be in millions of years. The future of Mars is long gone, the future of Venus is yet to be.
      • Re:Suggestion: Venus (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Bendebecker ( 633126 ) on Friday December 26, 2003 @04:37AM (#7811649) Journal
        Actually, Venus is not what Earth was once like. It is what Earth could have been like. At some point in the distant past, when the condensation from volcanic activity etc collected to form Earth's oceans, Venus's water evaporated (due to the slightly higher temperature due to its closer proximity to the sun.) The CO2(i think) that remains trapped in limestone and in the oceans of earth on venus evaportaed and combined with other gases to form its super thick atmosphere. The dense clouds insulated the planet and caused the further evaporation of moisture on the planet until it was all gone. At which point Venus was trapped in a runaway greenhouse effect - dense clouds cuase high pressure, heat is kept in and absorbed from the sun, acid rain constanly falls, evaportaes immediately only to fall again. Venus is what could have been and isn't (and hopefully won't be.) Mars is a possible future.
    • Even with modern technology, it would be impossible to land and study Venus for extended periods, as the pressures would simply crush and melt the craft within hours, if not minutes. It is a cruel mistress, in fact, more so than Mars.

  • by Michael.Forman ( 169981 ) * on Friday December 26, 2003 @12:20AM (#7810867) Homepage Journal

    Goodbye, Admiral. Oh, and don't
    count on the Beagle. She can't
    move. My next act will be to blow
    her out of the heavens.


    (Obscure Star Trek reference craves moderation of the Funny type from hip Gen-Xer with a softspot for nostalgia.)
    Michael. []
  • 5 watts...Crazy (Score:5, Informative)

    by MrFreezeBU ( 54843 ) on Friday December 26, 2003 @12:29AM (#7810895)
    From the article, Beagle is only broadcasting a 5 watt signal. Quick calculation..5 watts power output with a free space path loss of ~200db means that the amount of power reaching the Lovell dish is roughly 1/5x10^-66 of a watt.. I'm blown away that they are able to pick that out of the backgound noise at all.

    Free Space path loss []
    Nifty WLAN link calculator

    • by LiquidCoooled ( 634315 ) on Friday December 26, 2003 @12:47AM (#7810960) Homepage Journal
      Beagle is fitted with state of the art, top of the range Pringles tin....
    • OOGG want correct calculation.

      5 watt = +7 dBW (dB REFERRED WATT. 0 dBW BE 1 WATT)

      200 dB PATH LOSS reduce power -193 dBW.

      = 5 * 10^-20 WATT.

    • Re:5 watts...Crazy (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 26, 2003 @01:04AM (#7811050)
      In the 60s (the peak era for electronics IMHO) 'they' were able to suck signals from space with a signal level of -160dBm and amplify them with a doohickey called a 'parametric amplifier', a really neat idea that consists of varying the capacity of a diode junction with a pump signal to get voltage gain. Ah, the 60s, when you could make things out of a single diode and land people on the moon with it.
      And now in 2003 we can't even equal that with billions of transistors on an IC... Sad, really.
      There isn't much on the net about parametric amplifiers sadly. Better hit the libraries and look for mouldy oldies, I have a great book with descriptions of the circuitry used for tracking Pioneer probes.
    • Voyager 1 and 2 only have about 8 watts of transmitter power.

      I remember Carl Sagan once saying something about the total amount of energy reaching the earth as radio waves from radio sources in space, including space probes, being equivilant to the energy of a single snowflake hitting the ground. Why else would radio telescopes be so fracking big?
  • I have hope... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mOoZik ( 698544 ) on Friday December 26, 2003 @12:33AM (#7810909) Homepage
    Not that having hope will somehow change the fate of the lander, but I think we shouldn't all discount the very probable circumstance that it survived. I truly hope it has survived the landing.

  • Considering how bad the track record of landing something on Mars is, wouldn't it make lots of sense to build satellites with two or more identical landers? The engineerining and design is already done with the landers so it wouldn't cost as much as building a whole seperate mission and it would add fault tolerance if one of them fails to land.

    Or maybe NASA and the EU can pitch in a build a giant craft that will carpet-bomb Mars with landers. Mars Air Defense won't stand a chance.
    • So when something prior to descent goes wrong, both landers die? Remember that quite a few have died on their way to Mars and not during landing. That includes failing to reach Earth orbit, failing to travel to Mars, failing to get into Mars orbit, ed cetera.

  • Calling all Bookies! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by segment ( 695309 ) <sil@[ ] ['pol' in gap]> on Friday December 26, 2003 @12:38AM (#7810931) Homepage Journal
    Flurry of bets on life in Mars
    Vijay Dutt

    Bookmakers in London were biting their nails with nervousness as Beagle 2 approached the touch down on Mars. On Tuesday Ladbrokes cut the odds on the mission discovering life there after a flurry of bets.

    Ladbrokes received many large bets following successful separation of the lander from its mother ship, Mars Express, on Friday. Others too reportedly similar increase in number of bets.

    Proof of life on Mars would leave the bookmaker liable for a huge payouts on wagers placed with them. Warren Lush, a Ladbrokes spokesman was quoted saying that odds on finding evidence of life on Mars were being reduced from 33-1 to 25-1 after facing a potential payout of hundreds of thousands of pounds.

    He conceded that the odds did not represent the true odds on finding life on the planet but the price was shortened because of the liabilities of hundreds of thousands of pounds. " We first took money for Mars life on Mars back in 1969 and would be looking at a black hole in our accounts if Beagle 2 discovers something," the spokesman told the Times.

    Colin Pillinger, professor of Planetary Sciences at the Open University and Beagle's lead scientist has not placed any bet. He feels it would be like insider trading.

    Meanwhile, Sir Patrick Moore writing in the Mirror said we would know after a few hours if there is some form of life on Mars, 34,500,000 miles away from us. There are craters, old riverbeds, canyons, valleys and volcanoes, the Olympus Mars being three times higher than the Everest.

    The scientists are agog with the expectation that signals from Beagle 2 could confirm life forms even if it was very lowly.,0005 .htm []
  • However... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by skinfitz ( 564041 ) on Friday December 26, 2003 @12:39AM (#7810934) Journal
    Bear in mind that they were not even sure that Jodrell Bank would be able to pick up the signal. This was only conjecture and has never been tested.

    There is a window every day now to pick up a signal via NASA's Odyssey, and if for any reason that there is a problem with comms protocols between Beagle2 and Odyssey (this was never tested due to time constraints) then Mars Express will come online on Jan 4th 2004 which does know how to talk to Beagle2.
  • by fname ( 199759 ) on Friday December 26, 2003 @12:48AM (#7810968) Journal
    Well, this episode goes to show you why space programs cost so much. As a prior poster pointed, Beagle was much cheaper that Viking landers. The quote I saw was $1 billion for Viking and $62 million for Beagle, although that $62 million is a bit fictitious since it piggybacked a ride to Mars on Mars Express, so the real cost may have been higher.

    But let's say it cost $200 million. Let's say the Brits managed to send 5 identical models 1 year apart, and 2 worked fine. Would anyone be celebrating 2 successful landers for the price of 1 Viking? Nope, instead there would be an outcry about how the space program wastes money by destroying 3 $200 million missions.

    So what do the managers do? Well, NASA had a couple high-profile disasters and a couple resounding successes. Pathfinder got a lot of ink, but NASA was held up to a lot of ridicule for its failure of the failed trips. After skipping the 2001 window for flights to Mars, in 2003 NASA & JPL sent 2 very expensive (think $400-600 million each) landers to Mars. Hopefully, both will be successful. If both fail, it may indicate that they just got lucky with Pathfinder and airbags aren't the way to go.

    Oh, why did they cost so much more than Pathfinder & Beagle (keeping in mind that $400-600 million includes launch, the trip to Mars, the craft itself & the management of the program)? I'm sure it's because things were checked more thoroughly, the JPL managers were more conservative, and every problem that came up was fully addressed.

    On the other hand, APL seemed to have a fairly poor approach to system architecture, as can be seen by reading the NASA inquiry into the Contour mishap []. The APL investigation fixed blame quickly without making a thorough investigation. The full report dug into the cause a lot more thoroughly & made a much more likely assessment,
    The CONTOUR Board concludes that the probable proximate cause for loss of the CONTOUR spacecraft was overheating of the forward-end of the spacecraft due to base heating from the SRM exhaust plume. The CONTOUR SRM nozzle was embedded within the spacecraft to a greater degree than is typical (Fig. 3), and the resultant near-field effect of exhaust plume heating was not adequately accounted for in the design. Overheating may have caused substantial material weakening and structural degradation, which could have led to catastrophic dynamic instability.
    So why is space expensive? Almost every spacecraft (as opposed to satellites or launch vehicle) is essentially designed for 1 or 2 time use, and all the parts need to work, and, as highlighted above, need to work well together. That requires real engineering work involving analysis, research, testing and comparison to heritage programs. If you want to go from 50% to 90% reliability, you probably triple your costs (at least).

    I hope they find Beagle. But landing a complex science instrument on a distant planet is difficult, and occasional failure is to be expected. If someone figures out a way to do it very well & very cheap, these missions may become as routine as a satellite launch. Maybe it'll be NASA or the ESA or some small entrepreneur. Good luck to them all!
    • It seems mod points are directly related to post length. Shame.

    • The APL investigation fixed blame quickly without making a thorough investigation.

      How is that any different than any other large beurocracy? You can't expect NASA to be better managed than other like-size organizations. I have worked in enough different organizations to know that small ones are ruined by marketers and large ones are ruined by bumbling beurocrats, and those in between are ruined by both. Same as it ever was.

    • I find it hilarious that you can speculate the quality of the Beagle or any other mission based entirely on money spent.
  • While I'm not ready to write off Beagle 2 just yet, this is certainly disapointing. I couldn't think of a better gift on this Christmas for all of humanity then the furthering of our knowlege of the red planet. Here's to hoping the holiday season has one more miracle left in store by way of a nine note Blur song eminating from Mars.
  • by HangingChad ( 677530 ) on Friday December 26, 2003 @12:58AM (#7811015) Homepage
    ...the Martian Ambassador today announced their intent to "bust a cap in somebody's ass" if the "Earth folk" dropped another lander on them. The ambassador went on to claim the latest attempt to land a scientific instrument package on the Red Planet actually hit his personal vehicle.

    "Look what dey did to my damn car!" the ambassador, disguised as a homeless psychotic person in downtown Memphis, TN, insisted. "I'll kick their ass. Dropin' landers and shit all over. Look at that mess!"

    The ambassador refused further questions regarding a possible response from Mars, saying only that somebody owed him "a new damn car."

  • A well placed insider leaked that the Mission Control Team did receive a solitary message from the Beagle CPU. The solitary message was "Daisy....Daisy.....Give me your answer due.....I'm half-crazy....all for the love of you...."

    Mission control has launched an intensive inquiry to determine who "Daisy" is, and why she was tampering with the Beagle CPU (model HAL 9000).
    Expect further updates as they come in.

    -Mac refugee, Paper MCSE, Linux wanna be
  • I got it (Score:2, Funny)

    by Tablizer ( 95088 )
    Maybe they should put some aluminum foil on the antenna. It works for our TV's rabbit ears.
  • I found a picture of the probe on the back of a milk carton.
  • by Crypto Gnome ( 651401 ) on Friday December 26, 2003 @01:39AM (#7811177) Homepage Journal
    PETA heard on the grapevine that ESA was killing beagles, in the pursuit of space exploration.

    Expect a strongly worded denunciation and protest march later this week.
  • by mhw25 ( 590290 ) on Friday December 26, 2003 @02:37AM (#7811332)
    According to the Beeb article,

    Mars Express is the major part of the European mission - Beagle was a late add-on - and will search for water, ice and key chemicals buried under the Martian surface.

    That is, the lander is not the be all and end all of the ESA mission. After all, Mars Express will be looking for the potential signs of the possibility life on Mars - buried water, ice and chemicals - on a planetwide scale . Beagle will only be a stationary point sampler. I'm finding it strange that all that is being shouted about is the smaller part of the mission probably failed, while the greater whole is more or less working as planned.

    I'm not arguing that surface lander is not useful, just that it is not the main focus of this mission. We still have two shots at landers - and these are rovers, not stationary samplers, arriving soon:

    Spirit, the first of NASA's identical robot explorers, is expected to land Jan. 3. Its sibling, Opportunity, is scheduled to settle on the opposite side of the planet January 24. CNN []

    Beagle2 is kind of like the icing on the cake. Even if we lost it, but with Mars Express working we can still have our cake and eat it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 26, 2003 @02:52AM (#7811377)
    Has everyone completely forgotten about the solar flares? They were resposible for the loss of the Japanese mission and affected all the other missions currently on route.

    The lattest flares were among the most powerfull ever recorded, so I wouldn't be surprised if Beagle2 systems were affected by the sudden storm of magentically charged particles that came from the sun. Theoretically the probes where supposed to be magnetically shielded against these things but the strength of these lattest flares was way over what is normally expected.

    There are a number of possible reasons to why we are not getting any transmissions from it. It's possible that the landing system didn't deploy properly or even at all, or the main system is malfunctioning or simply not working at all as it should after the landing. The probe could have also landed too far from the expected landing site due to the infamous martian storms that plage the planet from time to time or landed in a rocky area and when it opened a boulder may have tilded the radio dish the wrong way.

    Mars Express, the orbiter, has yet to reach a stable polar orbit, as it is currently on a very eliptical orbit, but as soon as it does it will use it's high definition cameras to try and locate Beagle2 on the surface. But that's is going to take a while. Until then either we get some kind of message from Beagle or we'll just have to wait.
  • liberate mars (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Lord_Dweomer ( 648696 ) on Friday December 26, 2003 @03:00AM (#7811407) Homepage
    You know, if this were a US probe, this would be war. How DARE those martians [] shoot down the probe. They must be nervous about us Earth folk detecting their WMD []. People of Earth, WE MUST LIBERATE MARS!!!

    I will TRULY be amazed/stupified if this gets modded insightful.

  • by Cat_Byte ( 621676 ) on Friday December 26, 2003 @12:36PM (#7812768) Journal
    Amazing how it's running on Linux and command center is running on Linux and nobody comments on that. If it was Microsoft there would be pages of replies blaming them.

"Any excuse will serve a tyrant." -- Aesop