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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 March, 2004, 12:50 GMT
Team aboard new Beagle mission
Aberystwyth scientist Dr David Barnes
Dr David Barnes's robotic arm will be aboard a new Beagle mission
A team from a Welsh university which was involved with work on a robotic arm for the ill-fated Beagle 2 mission to Mars will be involved in a new attempt to land on the red planet.

The five-person team from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, helped calibrate a robotic arm for the Beagle 2 probe which was lost on Mars after attempting to land on Christmas Day last year.

Scientists involved in the mission held a conference at the Royal Society in London last week to discuss what went wrong and to plan a future mission.

They decided in principle to relaunch the Beagle 2 mission, probably in 2007, without major modifications to the lander, which is believed to have crashed on the Martian surface at the beginning of its mission to find past or present Martian life.

Any relaunch of Beagle 2, we'll be on it
Dr David Barnes

It means that the Aberystwyth space robotics group team's five-year project did not end with the loss of Beagle 2.

The arm is designed to collect rock and soil samples from the surface of Mars.

The Aberystwyth team's leader, Dr David Barnes, told BBC Wales News Online that he would be involved in a new Beagle 2 mission.

"Any relaunch of Beagle 2, we'll be on it - it will be the same robotic arm" he said.

"At the meeting of the mission scientists at the Royal Society, the consensus was that Beagle will be launched again in 2007.

Hitching ride

"While it is still a mystery what went wrong, they are confident there is no problem with Beagle itself and it will be kept in its present form - there won't be a new Beagle 3 or anything like that."

Dr Barnes added that he believed the only stumbling block to a new Beagle 2 mission was finding a craft to take it to Mars.

The 2003 Beagle probe was carried to the red planet by the European Space Agency's (ESA's) Mars Express mission, which is still circling the planet and sending back images of the surface.

Dr Barnes added: "The Beagle team is pushing for a relaunch in 2007.

"The ESA is sending a Rover mission to the surface of Mars in 2009 and it is accepted that it would be a good idea to send a probe like Beagle beforehand.

Impression of Beagle, Esa
Beagle was intended to scour Mars' surface for life

"The only problem is that there is nothing on the launch pad for 2007 that Beagle can hitch a ride on so far.

"But when it is relaunched, it will be in its present form.

"There hasn't been anything found that was incorrect with Beagle itself.

"There will be changes with the landing gear and in terms of making it more reliable, but our robotic arm will remain the same."

Ahead of working towards the possible 2007 relaunch, scientists are still attempting to find out what happened to the last Beagle 2 mission.

No signal

The Royal Society conference heard that Beagle 2 could have crashed into Mars because the atmosphere on the planet was less dense than expected.

Mission scientists told the London meeting the probe may simply have been going too fast for its parachute and airbags to bring about a soft landing.

No signal has ever been detected from the craft to indicate it got down safely, and all attempts to locate the probe with Mars orbiters and radio telescopes on Earth have failed.

Dr Barnes said that he feared the remains of Beagle would never be found.

He added: "What happened to Beagle is a mystery until we find it.

"Mars Express is still searching for Beagle, but the surface is being covered with dust.

"It may be that we never know what happened."




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