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UK and ESA Announce Beagle 2 Inquiry

Press Release From: British National Space Centre
Posted: Sunday, February 15, 2004

image Science and Innovation Minister Lord Sainsbury and the European Space Agency (ESA) today announced that an ESA/UK inquiry would be held to identify the potential reasons surrounding the inability to communicate with the British-led Beagle 2 lander. p>The lander, part of ESA's Mars Express mission, has not made contact since it separated from the mother ship in an attempt to land on the Red Planet on Christmas Day.

Lord Sainsbury said:

"I believe such an inquiry will be very useful. The reasons identified by the Commission of Inquiry will allow the experience gained from Beagle 2 to be used for the benefit of future European planetary exploration missions."

The chairman of the Commission of Inquiry is the ESA Inspector General Rene Bonnefoy. The UK Deputy Chair will be David Link MBE.

The inquiry will investigate whether it can be established why Beagle 2 may have failed to respond to communication commands and to identify any lessons which can be applied to future missions. Such inquiries are routine in the event of unsuccessful space missions.
The inquiry board will be set up under normal ESA procedures by the Inspector General of ESA. Because the inquiry is into a British-built lander, it will report to Lord Sainsbury as well as the Director General of ESA.

The inquiry will address technical and programmatic issues. It will:

  • Assess the available data/documentation acquired during development, integration and testing of the Beagle 2 lander on Earth and that pertaining to the cruise phase operations prior to release of the spacecraft to Mars.
  • Identify possible issues and shortcomings in the above and in the approach used.
  • Analyse the programmatic environment (i.e. decision processes, funding level and resources, management and responsibilities, interactions between the various entities) throughout the project.

It will aim to identify possible issues and shortcomings which might have contributed to the loss of the mission.

The board membership will have had no direct involvement in the Beagle 2 mission. The inquiry is expected to begin work shortly and produce its report by the end of March 2004.

The key players in the Beagle 2 mission, including Colin Pillinger, the Open University, the University of Leicester, the National Space Science Centre, EADS-Astrium, and BNSC partners have all welcomed the setting up of the inquiry board

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