Beagle 2 search: 'The baby is on Mars and the mother is very anxious to get in touch'

The world's most powerful radio telescopes were turned towards Mars last night as the search for a signal from Beagle 2 entered its fourth day. With nothing heard from the British probe since its landing on Christmas morning, the previously upbeat scientists at mission control in Leicester admitted: "It's not good news."

The world's most powerful radio telescopes were turned towards Mars last night as the search for a signal from Beagle 2 entered its fourth day. With nothing heard from the British probe since its landing on Christmas morning, the previously upbeat scientists at mission control in Leicester admitted: "It's not good news."

The giant Lovell telescope at Jodrell Bank in Cheshire was due to make its third attempt to pick up Beagle 2's signal from 10.56pm last night to 12.16am, joined by a 150ft instrument at Stanford University in California known as the Dish. Scientists were also trying to recruit the help of a third telescope, run by the University of Sydney in Australia.

Professor Colin Pillinger, leader of the Beagle 2 team, refused to give up hope and said the best chance of contact had always lain with the arrival of the mother ship, Mars Express, in orbit around the planet on 4 January. "It is our primary route of communication," he said. "It's the one we spent most of our time over the last five years testing."

And the man in charge of Mars Express, Professor David Southwood of the European Space Agency, remained defiantly hopeful. "The baby, we believe, is down on the surface and the mother is very anxious to get in touch with the baby again."

He added: "Clearly, I would feel so much more confident if we'd got a signal now. But we haven't played all our cards, and we'll then be using a system we absolutely know has been tested and we fully understand."

Beagle 2 was supposed to emit a nine-note tune from the surface to the American spacecraft Mars Odyssey, which has been in orbit around the planet since 2001. The signal was then to be relayed via Nasa's Deep Space network of receivers, taking nine minutes to reach earth.

But when Odyssey flew directly over the Beagle 2 landing site at 6.17am yesterday it did not detect a signal. An attempt to reset the clock on the probe, to prevent wrongly timed transmissions, received no response. British scientists stressed that the link with Odyssey had never been tested and the American craft may have malfunctioned. Odyssey will soon have other cares on its electronic mind: two probes sent by Nasa will attempt a landing next week, even as the ESA's mother ship takes over the search for Beagle 2.

"We're going to keep going until every possibility has been exhausted," said Professor Alan Wells, a leading member of the team at the National Space Centre in Leicester.

The probe's solar panels may have jammed open, blocking the antenna, he said. It was also possible the lid had failed to open. The disc-shaped probe is about the size of a domestic barbecue, weighed less than 70kg at launch, and was built to withstand the 1,600C heat on Mars. Its mission, expected to take 180 days, is to study rocks and dust and to search for methane, a gas seen as a sign of potential life.

The signal that was supposed to herald a successful landing was composed by Alex James and David Rowntree of the band Blur. The latter joined Beagle 2 scientists yesterday to demonstrate his support for the project, along with the singer Myleene Klass, a keen amateur astronomer.

Their presence and the extent to which Beagle 2 has captured the public imagination are testament to the skills of Professor Pillinger, whose efforts to seek sponsorship, publicity and the support of the ESA took six years. With his mutton whiskers and wild hair, the professor became an instant television star over Christmas, giving news cameras a wistful response to the initial silence. "It's like sending somebody a love letter, and you know they got it and you're waiting for a response."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face
books
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv'The Last Kingdom' is based on historical events
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
filmSir Ian McKellen will play retired detective in new film
Life and Style
tech
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
'Molecular Man +1+1+1' by Jonathan Borofsky at Yorkshire Sculpture park
tv
News
Glamour magazine hosts a yoga class with Yogalosophy author Mandy Ingber on June 10, 2013 in New York City.
newsFather Padraig O'Baoill said the exercise was 'unsavoury' in a weekly parish newsletter
Extras
indybest
News
people'She is unstoppable', says Jean Paul Gaultier at Paris show
Sport
Alexis Sanchez and apparently his barber Carlos Moles in Barcelona today
football
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sales Manager (Fashion and Jewellery), Paddington, London

£45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

Marketing Manager

£36000 - £38000 per annum: Charter Selection: Charter Selection are working wi...

Accounts Assistant, Hammersmith

£25000 per annum: Charter Selection: Exciting sports company with a strong bra...

Financial Accountant-IFRS-Gloucester-£300/day

£250 - £295 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Financial Accountant - IFRS - Glouc...

Day In a Page

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil