Moon Beckons Commercial Comeback for Beagle
Project managers for the British Beagle lander program are seeking redemption – on the moon – nearly six years after their spacecraft disappeared on Mars.
Collin Pillinger who headed the unsuccessful Beagle Mars project is in discussion with the commercial “Odyssey Moon” program to fly a backup version of Beagle’s most powerful instrument on board the Odyssey lunar lander.
When lost in December, 2003, the Beagle Mars lander was seeking organic materials that could have been evidence of past life. But the Odyssey Moon program is seeking evidence for lunar resources that could be mined by future astronauts seeking profit.
The Beagle project’s magnetic mass spectrometer is especially suited for finding such molecules, says Everett K. Gibson a NASA senior geochemist and astrobiologist at the Johnson Space Center. Gibson has led Lunar Beagle studies at JSC, where the lunar version of the spacecraft has been tested. A similar Pillinger instrument is on board a European Space Agency spacecraft headed for a landing on a comet.
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