Mars Lander Heads for Red Planet

Beagle 2 Slips from Mars Express Toward Planet Surface

Beagle 2 drifts slowly away from Mars Express.

hide captionA photo of Beagle 2, as it slowly drifts away from Mars Express, Dec. 19, 2003.

Copyright ESA
A computer illustration of the Mars Express in Mars orbit.

hide captionA computer illustration of the Mars Express in Mars orbit.

View a video animation of the Beagle 2 descent and landing.
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.

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