Feature

Europe goes to Mars

The week's news at a glance.

Paris

The European Space Agency has launched its first planetary explorer, with the help of British pop band Blur. The Paris-based ESA has a far smaller budget than NASA, so it had to rely on corporate sponsorship and private donations to launch the Beagle 2, a British-built craft named after Charles Darwin’s ship. Blur drummer Dave Rowntree told the London Guardian that his desire to promote a British space program blossomed after his band visited a NASA space center in Houston and met British scientists who couldn’t find work in the U.K. “What we had to bring was our celebrity badgering power,” Rowntree said. Blur lobbied rich friends to support Europe’s Mars exploration program, and even wrote the nine-note tune that Beagle 2 will play each time it radios home. Touchdown on Mars is scheduled for Christmas Day.

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