Congratulations to NASA
- Congratulations to NASA. Beagle 2 Team Still Hopes To Repeat Mars Landing
04-Jan-04 11:23 GMT
At a press briefing in London today, Professor Colin Pillinger (Open
University), Beagle lead scientist, and Dr Mark Sims (University of
Leicester), the mission manager, congratulated their colleagues at NASA's
Jet Propulsion Laboratory on the successful landing of the Spirit rover on
"I'd like to give congratulations to NASA and the Spirit team for getting
the lander down safely," said Professor Pillinger. "We wish them every
Adding his congratulations, Mark Sims said, "I'd like to reiterate the
international cooperation we've been getting in terms of looking for
Beagle. In particular, the JPL team which has been working very strange
hours supporting the Odyssey passes, Lockheed Martin, who've been running
the Odyssey spacecraft, Jodrell Bank, Westerborg, the British Astronomical
Association and Malin Space Science Systems. Mike Malin is looking at
imaging the landing site potentially from tomorrow."
Meanwhile, the search for Beagle 2 goes on.
"We haven't in any shape or form given up on Beagle 2," said Professor
"We have realised that Mars Express is not in the orbit we originally
expected, so our communication strategy is now different from the one that
we explained at the beginning of last week."
Describing the ongoing work at the Lander Operations Control Centre, Mark
Sims explained that teams from the University of Leicester, SciSys and
Astrium are continuing their efforts to identify possible failure modes
that can be addressed.
"We're still concentrating on both the communications and timing/software
issues, and working our way through the logic and fault tree on the basis
that Beagle 2 is on the surface of Mars and for some reason is failing to
talk to us," said Dr. Sims.
"There are six or seven scenarios that we're still working through and we
still can't eliminate any of those."
However, possible failure scenarios involving a reset of the clock
hardware and a problem with a tilted antenna seem to have been ruled out.
Today's successful transmission of signals from the Spirit rover via Mars
Odyssey also indicates that the radio on board NASA's orbiter is working
Meanwhile, an attempt to send blind commands to Beagle 2 via Mars Odyssey
on 31st December also resulted in no obvious response from the lander.
There has also been no response from the Beagle 2 transceiver during 11
programmed passes. Unfortunately, the last four contact opportunities
pre-programmed into Beagle 2's computer no longer coincide with Mars
Express on its current orbit, so the team is now relying on the spacecraft
switching to various back-up communication modes.
The mission team is now waiting for their little lander to switch to one
of its backup communication modes. Beagle 2 could already be operating in
'communication search mode 1', during which it listens for 80 minutes
during both the Martian day and night in an effort to establish contact
with an available orbiter at Mars Odyssey overflight times.
If no link is established by this method, 'communication search mode 2'
should eventually be activated. The earliest date by which this mode could
become operational was 3rd January. In this mode, the receiver is on for
59 minutes out of every hour throughout the Martian day, and the
spacecraft sends a carrier signal five times in each daylight hour. During
the Martian night, Beagle 2's receiver will be on for one minute out of
every five, but there is no carrier signal.
Although Mars Odyssey will continue to search for the lander, Mars Express
will soon become the prime communication link with Beagle 2. After
reaching its operational polar orbit today, ESA's orbiter should pass over
the Beagle 2 landing site regularly from 7th January onwards. Various
modes of communication can be attempted during passes by Mars Express,
although the team anticipates starting on 7th and 8th January with the
standard 'hail and command' which has been used with Mars Odyssey.
The first four passes with Mars Express (7th, 8th, 9th and 10th January)
are almost directly over the landing site and only 5 to 8 minutes long, so
they are not ideal for communication, whereas the opportunities on 12th
and 14th January are potentially much longer.
© Beagle 2: news»