Crater Could Explain Beagle-2 Silence

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Just minutes after the British Beagle-2 lander touched down on the surface of Mars last Thursday, NASA's orbiting Mars Global Surveyor snapped a picture of the landing site and found a deep crater right in the center of the targeted area. "We'd have to be incredibly accurate and incredibly unlucky to go right down this crater, which of course would not be good news," project leader Colin Pillinger told reporters on Monday. The tiny lander, about the size of a bicycle wheel and weighing less than 75 pounds, could be damaged by a rough or rocky landing. As days go by and no signal is received from the lander, efforts are continuing but hopes of success are fading.

A European orbiter will pass by on Sunday and make another attempt at communication. Of 34 missions to Mars since 1960, two-thirds have ended in failure, according to Space.com. The Beagle 2, which is designed to search for signs of life, was named in honor of the ship that Charles Darwin sailed in around the world.