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Joined: Sun Sep 16, 2001 11:31 am

Mars Closest In 60,000 Years

Sun Jul 20, 2003 12:53 am

On August 27th 2003 the planet Mars will reach the closest point in its orbit to the Earth(opposition). Lookout for Mars rising in the late evening sky to the east. It is already very bright and will get extremely bright as we get closer to opposition. For those people with acess to a telescope, don't miss it! Details are now visible that normally aren't- the polar ice caps, dust storms, ground features etc even through small backyard telescopes. I can see the polar caps quite clearly through my 4.5" Newtonian.


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Joined: Wed May 23, 2001 6:25 pm

RE: Mars Closest In 60,000 Years

Sun Jul 20, 2003 6:15 am

Nice links, of course the position of Mars has resulted in a fleet of probes from the US, Europe and Japan being launched.
All being well, the UK's Beagle 2 will land on Christmas day, then the ESA Mars Express will be inserted into orbit, followed in January by the two NASA rovers.
Here is a link to some accessible guides to the spacecraft, the planet and recent findings about this world, which surely awaits a Astronaut's bootprint.

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Joined: Sun Sep 16, 2001 11:31 am

RE: Mars Closest In 60,000 Years

Sun Jul 20, 2003 9:41 am

This is gonna be awesome come December/January. Never before have so many probes gone out at the same time. It's safe to assume that pics of Mars are probably going to make front page news for a while from all these missions. Remember the fanfare Pathfinder caused in 1997? There were pages and pages dedicated to Mars in the newspapers. I think this is good as it educates people. Probably the mission i know least about though is the European Mars Express mission. So Beagle 2 isn't actually a rover, all it does is land and stay in one spot right?
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Joined: Wed May 23, 2001 6:25 pm

RE: Mars Closest In 60,000 Years

Mon Jul 21, 2003 1:02 am

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.

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Joined: Wed Sep 12, 2001 3:13 am

RE: Mars Closest In 60,000 Years

Mon Jul 21, 2003 4:37 pm

Seem like mankind has flunked the best oppertunity for a manned mars mission,
just has to wait another 60K years....
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