The British-led Beagle 2 mission plans to land on Mars as part of the European Space Agency's Mars Express Mission. It is due to be launched from Kazakhstan in June 2003 and should reach its destination by Christmas 2003
(Photograph) - Dr Mark Burchell with the light gas gun. Looking down the chamber: the Rhodoccocus bacteria are placed on projectiles at the back of the gun. The plate holders on the open gun door are fitted with sterile agar jelly plates. The door is closed and air is sucked out through the tube on the left, leaving a vacuum to simulate conditions in space. The gun fires the bacteria at enormous speed at the agar plates. Air is let back into the chamber and the door is then opened. The agar plates are removed and kept for examination. Signs of bacterial growth show that life can survive the hypervelocity of impact of the test
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