Beagle 2 is a heroic effort by UK Scientist Colin Pillinger to get a lander onto the ESA Mars Express mission, he started by gatecrashing an ESA meeting in 1997.
To get publicity he got members of the rock band 'Blur' to back it (they have taped a musical mathematical sequence to announce it's landing, two of the band are keen amateur astronomers and pilots), and artist Damien Hirst, (who provided a spot painting to calibrate the cameras).
Pillinger started out designing Apollo ALSEP instruments for Bendix UK, Bendix in the US had such a heavy workload in the 60's some of it was contracted out to foreign subsidiaries.
He used his contacts in industry to push it forward, (a work colleague had a son working at Martin Baker in 2001, on Beagle's parachute system), others included Astriuim (formerly BAe Space Systems), Imperial College and Rutherton-Appleton Labs.
With this momentum he finally got the government interested too, in 1999.
Beagle 2, being an 'add-on' to Mars Express, had severe weight, cost and size limits, but Pillinger's design will dig below the Martian surface, then examine samples in situ.
The mole and drill (designed by a Chinese Dentist who makes dental tools), will be able to go some distance from the static lander, and burrow down several inches.
Beagle 2 is designed to look for traces of past life, using different methodology to that employed by Viking, of course 25 years later instruments are smaller and more sensitive.
It will also land in a possibly more benign environment for past life than Vikings 1 and 2 did.
Why Beagle 2, well the original Beagle was the ship Charles Darwin used in his voyage to discovery.