Beagle 2, the spacecraft that will next year fly the UK's ambitious space mission to Mars, is beginning to take shape in a new $2 million ultra-clean aseptic assembly facility at the Open University, project officials announced at the show.

The heatshield, which will protect the Beagle 2 Mars lander as it enters the Martian atmosphere, has just been delivered by EADS.

As Beagle 2 is to analyse the soil of Mars, it is vitally important the measurements will not be spoiled by human contamination.

"As a result of the sterile environment of the room, the air is recycled 500 times an hours", said professor Colin Pillinger, Beagle's creator.



"The assembly room will keep Beagle 2 free of terrestrial micro-organisms and other forms of contamination".

Pillinger devised the mission over six years ago and has gained support and funding from inside and outside the space industry.

The latest industrial sponsor for the mission, auto maker Ferrari, was announced at the show. The company's distinctive red paint will be on board a specially constructed small glass globe on Beagle.

The clean room, part funded by the European Space Agency (ESA) will be made available to other spacecraft customers, including ESA, for the assembly of spacecraft, including the agency's Mars Netlander and Aurora exobiology missions.

Pillinger says, "I am convinced that there is or was life on Mars. If the Earth managed to support life, it must have existed elsewhere. We would be fools not to capitalise on this fact to gain support for Beagle 2".

Beagle 2 will be launched in June 2003 and reaches Mars in December.

Source: Flight Daily News