British scientists plan mission to Mars, again

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The Independent Online

Scientists behind the Beagle 2 mission to Mars unveiled designs yesterday for a successor to the British spacecraft.

Scientists behind the Beagle 2 mission to Mars unveiled designs yesterday for a successor to the British spacecraft.

Plans for the so-called Beagle 3 came to light as scientists outlined their aims to establish a new robotic lab on the red planet. They propose that two landing spacecraft be launched from an orbiter in 2009 as part of Europe's Aurora programme of space exploration.

Professor Colin Pillinger, the lead scientist on last year's venture, said he was planning to make a presentation to the European Space Agency (ESA), which had not solicited the proposals. "This is us putting our cap in the ring," he said.

The new design was unveiled a day after a report into the financial loss surrounding Beagle 2 criticised the Government for failing to commit funding at the start and for not monitoring its progress.

Beagle 2 was designed to search for signs of life on Mars using sophisticated instruments. But the lander failed to make contact after it was scheduled to touch down on Christmas Day. British taxpayers contributed about £25m to the mission, which cost £42.5m.

Yesterday, however, scientists remained optimistic about Beagle 2's successor. The aim of the new mission is to demonstrate the ability to land on Mars before sending a robotic rover as part of ESA's ExoMars project.

Scientists have enforced a number of key changes in the design of the craft.

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