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Mon, May 24, 2004

Verdict: Beagle 2 Probe Doomed From Start

Official Inquiry Says Mars Project Mismanaged

It was Europe's first journey to another planet -- a British-led project that was to showcase the UK's inventiveness and reach. But the Beagle 2 Mars probe went missing Christmas Day. Now, a new report to be released Monday says the British-led team was fatally mismanaged.

Specifically, the commission's report says the job was rushed and done on the cheap, according to the British Independent newspaper. The questions now include whether the British space program can effectively continue in the wake of the report.

The Independent reports the Beagle 2 team is privately "furious" with the report's conclusions -- and perhaps, for good reason. The Beagle 2 lander was made a part of the European Space Agency's mission to Mars only three years ago. After that, ESA officials ordered the Beagle 2 team to cut the size of the probe in half. The inquiry commission's report will reportedly also say that the ESA should have made the probe a much bigger part of the Mars mission -- and should have dedicated more experienced staffers to the project.

The ESA will reportedly agree, at least in part, with the commission's findings. In a statement to be released concurrently with the commission's findings, the Independent reports the ESA will say that the investigation "made it clear that there were programmatic and organizational reasons that significantly increased the risk of Beagle 2 failure."

But members of the British Beagle 2 team say it's just not fair to criticize their shortcomings when NASA has lost two-thirds of its Mars probes over the last 10 years.



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