No Mars signal from Beagle probe

Scientists have failed to pick up an expected signal from British-built spacecraft Beagle 2 telling them it has landed safely on Mars. The Ј35m ($62m) probe should have landed at 0254 GMT on Christmas Day after a six-month flight.

Nasa's Mars Odyssey orbiter has since flown over its landing site but failed to detect the expected call sign.

Lead scientist Professor Colin Pillinger insisted that "it's not the end of the world".

The giant Jodrell Bank telescope, in Cheshire, UK, will come on line at about 2200 GMT to listen for signals.

Scientists are confident that sweep will pick up a signal from Beagle 2 - if it has made it to the planet surface in one piece and is functioning as expected.

If that option fails, the Nasa spacecraft will have a daily chance to pick up the signal until 3 January, when Europe's Mars Express craft - the mother ship now orbiting the planet - begins its mission - reports &to=' target=_blank>BBC.

The New Norcia station near Perth will play a key role in the European Space Agency's mission to search for life on the planet, picking up signals from Beagle 2's mother ship Mars Express for relaying to mission control in Germany.

Today's lack of a signal from the lander was a disappointment to the ten-strong team at the station, 150km north of Perth, who are now hoping Beagle 2 will make contact tomorrow morning.

Station manager Roly Morin said there was a 20 minute window each day for earth stations to receive signals from Beagle 2.

He said there were many factors that could have prevented the lander from making contact.

"It could be any number of things. The temperature on Mars might not have been what was predicted," Mr Morin said. "Beagle is good for two years so we'll keep trying" - informs &to=' target=_blank>

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