The Beagle Has Landed


No, not you

One of the sweetest pieces of news in the last couple of days is the discovery that the UK Space Agency probe, Beagle 2, sent to Mars in 2002, did not crash as was long since assumed, but actually landed successfully on the Martian surface, but only partially deployed, thus failing to send any information back to Earth.

It’s a terrible shame that Beagle 2‘s designer, Professor Colin Pillinger, could not be here to be vindicated, but it’s nice to know that his memory is enhanced by the knowledge that he did not design a flop.

I remember that time well. My then wife was a dog lover, and her favourite breed was the beagle. It was a standing joke between us that if she ever saw one of the breed, roaming around, she would excitedly squeak ‘Beagle!’ in my ear at an eardrum-threatening pitch.

Naturally, she, and I, transferred that affection to the capsule, and shared in the disappointment of its presumed loss. My wife was full of theories as to what the capsule was doing instead of broadcasting back to Britain, based on the natural characteristics and preoccupations of the breed, and even switched her squeaked ‘Beagle!’ to a low, mournful ‘Poor Beagle’ for several weeks.

It would be even better if, somehow, Beagle 2‘s partial deployment could be completed and we could find out that it’s been gathering a lot more than Martian bones this past dozen years. I can hear, and envy, the delighted squeak even now.

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