December 20th, 2003

Message to Mars: the Brits are coming The Guardian

To cheers from scientists in Britain and Germany, a European spacecraft the size of a large washing machine detached a package the size of a home barbecue yesterday and sent it spinning gently on a five-day journey towards Mars at 12,500mph. On board were a parachute, a set of airbags, a heatshield, a camera, a drill, a torch, a Damien Hirst painting, music by Blur, a set of solar panels and an oven capable of heating rock to 1,000 C – powered by a source just big enough to light up a 60 watt bulb.

November 10th, 2003

Man with a mission The Guardian

It may look like a garden barbecue, or a giant pocket watch. But it is, in fact, a space probe – on Christmas Day it will land on Mars and start exploring. Here, Colin Pillinger, the British scientist behind this shoestring project, tells the story of the Beagle 2.

August 29th, 2003

What they said about… Mars The Guardian

The tangerine glow of Mars, visible from Earth as it made its nearest approach to this planet for 60,000 years on Wednesday, united the newspapers across the world in wonder and contemplation.

August 27th, 2003

Closest Martian encounter for 60,000 years The Guardian

No one in Britain will see the closest encounter in human history, because it will happen in daylight. But at 10.51 BST today, the planet Mars will be nearer Earth than at any time since 56,617BC. At that moment, the two will be 34,646,418 miles apart.

May 22nd, 2003

Britain joins the hunt for life on Mars The Guardian

It’s a space lander the size of a portable barbecue, stapled to a mothership not much bigger than a household refrigerator, and it’s about to make history. On June 2 – the date could slip, but not by much – Beagle 2 will leave Kazakhstan aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket and begin a journey of 400m km. Mars Express will be the first European mission to reach another planet and Beagle 2 will be the first British lander to unfold under extraterrestrial skies. The first carries ground-penetrating radar that will “feel” deep below the surface of a freezing, arid, hostile planet and the second a little mole that will explore the surface and even burrow a metre below it. Between them, they might answer one of the great questions of the past 300 years: is there, or was there, life on Mars?

April 17th, 2003

Radar survey aims to solve mystery of Mars’s water The Guardian

A European spacecraft bound for Mars in June will “feel” miles below the surface of the red planet for ice and water. It will also launch a little British lander, roughly the size of a backyard barbecue, which will bounce down just north of the equator and burrow into the Martian topsoil in search of chemical evidence of life.

January 18th, 2003

Oh man! Look at those spacemen go … The Guardian

The United States hopes to send an astronaut to Mars in a nuclear-powered rocket, according to a senior Nasa official. Under the space agency’s ambitious plan, humans would be sent on a two-month journey to Mars in a spaceship travelling at three times the current speed of space travel. President George Bush may announce the plan, named Project Prometheus, at his State of the Union address on January 28, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times.

November 20th, 2002

Mars attracts The Guardian

With their maverick, DIY appeal, they have gadded around in spacesuits in a US desert and in the Arctic and now, thanks to British help, they will have a mock spaceship in Europe. Welcome to the slightly surreal world of the privately funded Mars Society, which originated in the US in 1998 and now has some 6,000 members in 50 countries with one unifying passion: establishing a human presence on Mars. Today the organisation took another small step towards its Mars dream when its British division announced that a third research station, Euro-Mars, will open next summer in Iceland at a cost of

October 30th, 2002

It’s true, men really are from Mars The Guardian

Comment: Nasa landed two Viking spacecraft on the Martian surface with the specific aim of searching for signs of biological activity. Not so much as a bacterium was found. The surface of Mars appeared to be a freeze-dried desert, utterly hostile to any form of life. Today this pessimistic assessment seems too hasty. I believe not only that Mars has harboured life, but it may actually be the cradle of life. This conclusion arises because of the recent discovery that our biosphere extends deep into the bowels of the Earth. Microbes have been found thriving at depths of several kilometres, inhabiting the pore spaces of apparently solid rock. Genetic studies suggest these deep-living organisms are among the most ancient on the planet. They are, in effect, living fossils.

September 26th, 2002

Mission to Mars The Guardian

Cockroaches are hardy earthlings and the perfect creatures to explore the surface of Mars. Duncan Steel explains why.