ESA's decision means that Professor Colin Pillinger and the Beagle 2 consortium now have until next year to raise the remainder of the pounds 25 million needed to build the lander vehicle.
Among Beagle's supporters are musicians from the band Blur, who will provide the soundtrack for a computer-generated simulation of Beagle 2's landing. Blur bassist Alex James and drummer Dave Rowntree (pictured above) met Professor Pillinger to view a model of Beagle 2. Both have a longstanding interest in space and Alex James has reportedly described Beagle's mission to search for life as `sexy'.
But ESA's approval doesn't guarantee plain sailing for the Beagle 2 project. ESA will assess the whole mission again at the end of 1999 before giving scientists and engineers the go-ahead to start building the spacecraft.