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."

News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
Life and Style
CHARGE BOOSTER: Aeroplane mode doesn't sound very exciting, but it can be a (phone) hacker's friend. Turning on the option while charging your mobile will increase the speed at which your phone battery charges
techNew book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Latest stories from i100
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

Solutions Architect - Permanent - London - £70k DOE

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

General Cover Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: Great opportunities for Cover...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?