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British Scientists Ask NASA to Help Find Missing Martian Lander - 2004-01-26

British space scientists say they have asked their U.S. colleagues to help in a last ditch effort to contact the missing Martian lander, Beagle 2.

Beagle 2 was sent to Mars to search for life. Now scientists fear the lander itself may be dead.

Colin Pillinger, the mastermind behind the Beagle 2 project, told a London news conference his team is asking NASA to have its Mars Odyssey orbiter contact Beagle 2 on Tuesday with a command to switch off its computer and reload its software.

"We are now working on the basis that this is a corrupt system and the only way we might resurrect it is send such a command and completely reload the software, if it's still alive," he said.

Mr. Pillinger said the attempt will be "pretty much a last resort."

He said the European orbiter called Mars Express failed to get a response from Beagle 2 during two flyovers on Saturday and Sunday.

Beagle 2 separated from Mars Express in mid-December and is believed to have landed on Mars on December 25, though it has not been heard from.

The lander is about the size of an open umbrella and it is not mobile. It was designed to perform various experiments to determine if life does, or ever did, exist on Mars.