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Beagle 2: Ready to Dig the Dirt on Mars
Beagle 2: Ready to Dig the Dirt on Mars
28 Nov 2002
(Source: University of Leicester)

Press Office
University of Leicester

Ather Mirza, Press Officer, 0116 252 2415

November 2002

No 264

The University of Leicester has successfully completed construction and test of the flight Model PAW, the 'eyes and hand' of the Beagle 2 Mars lander.

The Beagle 2 project aims to send a UK-led lander to Mars in December 2003 as part of the European Space Agency's Mars Express Mission, due for launch at the end of May 2003.

The robotic lander, controlled remotely from Earth, will sample the soil, rocks and atmosphere of Mars in its search for signs of past and present life. In addition it will examine the detailed geology and environment of the landing site (Isidis Planitia).

The Beagle 2 probe is named after HMS Beagle, the ship in which Charles Darwin sailed.

The Flight Model PAW (Position Adjustable Workbench) is an integrated collection of instruments and tools for Beagle 2 that has been constructed over the last five months and has just completed a vigorous test programmme.

This programme included a vibration and shock test to simulate the rocket launch and the landing on Mars and a thermal test to simulate Martian temperatures at the European Space Agency's Technology Centre at Noordwijk in the Netherlands.

The PAW is constructed around a lightweight cast aluminium structure and its own set of control electronics both designed and assembled at the University of Leicester.

Mounted on the PAW are:

  • A Stereo Pair of Cameras to image the landing site and identify nearby rocks -- provided by a consortium led by Mullard Space Science Laboratory, University College London
  • A Microscope to examine the microscopic structure of the rocks and soil -- provided by the Max Planck Institute for Aeronomy Lindau in Germany
  • A Gamma-ray Mossbauer Spectrometer to measure the oxidisation state of iron minerals in the soil and rocks -- provided by the University of Mainz in Germany
  • An X-ray Spectrometer to measure the elemental composition of the rocks and soil -- provided by the Leicester team led by Professor George Fraser
  • A Rock Corer/Grinder provided by Hong Kong Polytechnic Hong Kong, China with technical assistance from Leicester based on a concept developed by TC Ng
  • A Mole, a self burying drill and soil collection device -- built by a consortium led by DLR (German Aerospace Research Establishment) Koln.
The cameras and microscope utilise identical camera heads provided by Space-X of Switzerland who also provided some of the optical elements of the cameras. Satellite Services BV of the Netherlands provided key parts of the test equipment.

Dr Mark Sims the Beagle 2 Mission Manager said "This was very much a team effort led by the Instrument Manager Derek Pullan and the PAW Chief Engineer Shaun Whitehead at the University of Leicester. The flight PAW is the culmination of four years of effort by the Leicester team and the instrument providers. Following integration with the Beagle 2 lander at the Open University, the next time the PAW will be used is on Mars in December 2003".

The FM PAW has now been delivered for integration and test with the flight structure and electronics of the Beagle 2 probe at the Open University. Beagle 2 will be delivered to the Mars Express project in January 2003.

The construction and test of the Beagle 2 PAW at Leicester has been funded by the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council and from internal resources at the University of Leicester. The Beagle 2 project is a consortium led by the Open University together with the University of Leicester and Astrium UK Ltd at Stevenage. Beagle 2 is funded in part by the UK Department of Trade and Industry (via the British National Space Centre), the European Space Agency, and from internal resources provided by the consortium members. Whilst the balance of the cost of the project has been underwritten, a proportion of the funding will be recouped by sponsorship and commercial advertising.



For further details please contact:

University of Leicester:

Dr Mark Sims
Tel: 0116 252 3513

Derek Pullan
Tel: 0116 223 1045

Shaun Whitehead
Tel 0116 252 3498

Ather Mirza, Press Office
Tel: 0116 252 3335

Beagle 2 Resources:

Beagle 2 website:

Professor Colin Pillinger
Open University
Tel: 01908 652119

Dr Judith Pillinger
Open University (for press contacts)
Tel: 01908 655049

Instrument Providers:

Dr Andrew Coates
Mullard Space Science Laboratory, University College London
Tel: 01483 204 145

Dr Nick Thomas
Max Planck Institute for Aeronomy, Lindau, Germany
Tel: +49 555 697 9437

Dr G?star Klingelh?fer
University of Mainz, Germany
Tel: +49 6131 393282

Professor George Fraser
University of Leicester, UK
Tel: 0116 252 3542

Professor K L Yung
Hong Kong Polytechnic, Hong Kong, China
Tel: 852 276 66 592

Dr Lutz Richter
German Aerospace Research Establishment (DLR), Koln, Germany
Tel: +49 2203601 4568

Dr Jean-Luc Josset
Space-X, Neuch?tel, Switzerland
Tel: +41 32 720 55 34

Greg Sims, Managing Director
Satellite Services BV
Scheepmakerstraat 40
2222 Katwijk ann Zee
The Netherlands
Tel: +31 71 402 81 20

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Last Updated: 10 Dec 2002