Europe's Mars Lander separated from its mothership Friday,
heading for touchdown on the Red Plane Christmas day (first Mars
photo from Mars Express, below).
Michael McKay, mission manager for the Mars Express, confirmed
the separation just after 6:00 am EST. Beagle-2 is on its way to
search for signs of life on the fourth rock from the sun.
"The mother and baby are both doing well," David Southwood,
director of science at the European Space Agency (ESA), said after
the lander's separation was confirmed. "It's been a few tense
The Mars Express mothership is now executing a complicated set
of maneuvers that, if successful, will put it in orbit around the
planet, where it will conduct radar surveys while Beagle-2 explores
the surface. Beagle-2, meanwhile, will hopefully make a bouncy
landing on the surface, its impact cushioned by airbags that will
inflate around the vehicle. If its batteries charge enough to
survive the frigid Martian night, Beagle will signal its mothership
to say it's alive and ready to begin its search for life signs.