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Damning report into failed Mars mission

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The ill-fated Beagle 2 project faces heavy criticism when the European Space Agency (ESA) publishes the results of its inquiry into the loss of the craft.

According to The Sunday Times, the report will say that the project was "poorly managed, inadequately funded and left itself too little time to test landing systems".

Professor David Southwood, director of science at the ESA, told the ST that the project had been compromised by its short timescale, inadequate funding and an overstretched project leader, Professor Colin Pillenger. Pillinger, he said, had been trying to raise money to fund the project at the same time as trying to build the space craft.

“Privately we saw this loss coming. Long before launch I said I would never allow anything like this again," he added.

Beagle 2 was the UK's bid to determine if life existed on the surface of Mars. The probe was launched last June, hitching a ride on the ESA's Mars Express Orbiter mission.

All was going well until it separated from the mothership on 19 December. It was scheduled to land on Christmas Day, but the team met silence when it tried to contact the vessel.

An ESA spokesman told The Register that he understood the report had been finalised, but he could not confirm its conclusions. He expects publication in the next several days.

Earlier this year, the National Audit Office published a general report on British efforts in space. In this report, the amount of public funding allocated to the Beagle 2 mission was questioned. Although the ESA covered the technical risks, the report said, "the residual risks in the project were not set out in the appraisal of the case made by British National Space Council (BNSC) for public funding". ®

Related stories

ESA probes Beagle 2 failure
Reg discovers corporate logo on surface of Mars
Rosetta space-bound at third attempt
Macclesfield centre of universe: official

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