At the last Farnborough, an enthusiastic UK Open University professor named Colin Pillinger was promoting his concept of a Mars lander which looked like a large version of a lady's powder compact. That dream is not only alive but thriving ¡ and has given the UK its own space programme, the Beagle 2, that will reach the parts of Mars that NASA couldn't reach last year. The $40 million Beagle 2 will be launched piggyback style aboard the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter in June 2003, landing on Mars six months later.

If Beagle 2 survives and transmits successfully it will have become only the fourth craft to land on the Martian surface, after Vikings 1 and 2 in 1976 and Mars Pathfinder in 1997. NASA's Mars Polar Lander failed to land last December.

After the compact disc-shaped craft has made a high-speed entry into the Martian atmosphere, it will parachute to the surface encased in three inflated balloons to cushion the impact and subsequent bounce across the surface. The balloons will be ejected, the "lid" of the craft will open, as three petals, which contain the solar panels and radio antenna, while the main part of the exposed craft deploys a small robot arm equipped with instruments and a stereoscopic camera. The robot arm will deploy a small "mole" which will burrow under the surface and collect a small sample.

Source: Flight Daily News