Sunday, January 04, 2004

Success at last

Nasa/JPL's lander Spirit has successfully landed on Mars, and has started transmitting pictures. Yay. Meanwhile, the British team are still saying that they are looking for Beagle 2, but nobody thinks that there is much hope. Various explanations have been made as to what might have happened to it, but the central message has not been emphasised by the media. This is that landing on Mars (particularly using the air bag bouncing landing method that was used) is difficult, that the tiniest of errors was likely to lead to Beagle suffering much greater stresses than intended and smashed to pieces, and that by far the most likely explanation for Beagle's non-transmission of signals is that Beagle was smashed to pieces on landing.

It has been interesting being in Britain during the Beagle mission, however. It was striking just how much national pride there was that Britain was attempting something like this. There was lots of media coverage and the overwhelming feeling was that this was a fine thing to be doing. Even after the mission apparently failed, the national pride didn't go away. It was still a general feeling of "Isn't it great that we tried. Bring on Beagle 3". This was actually a nice attitude.

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