A photo of Beagle 2, as it slowly drifts away from Mars Express, Dec. 19, 2003.
Illustration by Medialab, ESA
The latest effort to find signs of life on Mars relies on a small spinning saucer named Beagle 2. The European Space Agency lander separated from the Mars Express mother ship Friday and is scheduled to land on the Red Planet on Christmas day.
The Beagle 2 — named in honor of the ship that carried Charles Darwin to the Galapagos — will test Martian rocks for a specific mix of carbon atoms and sniff the air for methane, either of which could be evidence of life. NPR's David Kestenbaum reports.