Beagle 2 yet to bark but the team is still hoping

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The Independent Online

British scientists have failed again to contact the Beagle 2 spacecraft meant to land on Mars on Christmas Day, but have not given up hope that it could be working.

There was no result yesterday from the giant radio telescope at Stanford University which was hurriedly set to listen for radio signals from the tiny craft. But the Beagle team said the telescope "was not operating at its highest level of performance" when it tried to detect emissions early yesterday morning.

The team, led by Professor Colin Pillinger, of the Open University, said it has set up an "analysis and recovery think tank" to try to work out why Beagle 2 has not contacted its makers. But Professor Alan Wells, senior consultant at the British National Space Centre, said the lack of contact was "not good news". The Stanford telescope should be sensitive enough to detect the tiny electromagnetic emissions from the onboard computer, if it is functioning.

One possibility - besides the chance that its components might now be scrap metal strewn across the Martian landscape - is that there is a communications incompatibility between the Beagle 2 lander and the orbiting Mars Odyssey spacecraft, developed by the US space agency Nasa.

If there has been no contact by tomorrow, and Beagle 2 is still intact, it has been programmed to begin an emergency "search mode" in which it will beam out radio signals in the hopes of contacting an orbiting spacecraft. But with the passing days, the likelihood is increasing that the lander has not survived its meeting with the Red Planet.

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