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Public viewing for space mission at Leicester

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The National Space Centre in Leicester is inviting the public to watch the British-led Beagle 2 space mission, designed to land on Mars towards the end of the year.

Professor Alan Wells, director of Space Research at both the University of Leicester and National Space Centre, said: 'The idea to operate a space mission in full view of the visiting public to the National Space Centre is something that Colin Pillinger and I have been planning for, ever since Beagle 2 was conceived.

'NASA has never done this. We are breaking new ground in the public presentation of space science.'

Beagle 2 will be carried to Mars on the European Space Agency's Mars Express space craft, which will be launched by a Russian Soyuz/Fregat rocket from Baikanur, in Kazakhstan, on or around 6 June - one of four international missions heading for Mars this year.

The National Space Centre says it will provide a 'unique opportunity for a UK audience to witness the workings of a real-life major space project'.

The primary scientific aim of the mission is to search for evidence of whether life may have existed, or still exists, on or below the surface of Mars. Beagle 2 operations will be managed by the University of Leicester team of scientists and engineers in the Lander Operations Control Centre (LOCC) at the Millennium Commission funded centre.

The National Space Centre will launch a preview exhibition of the Beagle 2 mission on 23 May. Graphics, text, artefacts and interactives are intended to give a broad overview of the mission, with a full-scale model of the Beagle 2 as its focus.

'This is a tremendous opportunity for visitors to the National Space Centre to watch a live space mission as it happens', said Chas Bishop, chief executive of the centre.

'Beagle 2 is arguably the UK's most exciting space venture ever, and to secure the Lander Operations in Leicester is an extraordinary achievement by the teams at the National Space Centre, the University of Leicester and the Millennium Commission.' Details: www.spacecentre.co.uk/www.beagle2.com

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The National Space Centre in Leicester is inviting the public to watch the British-led Beagle 2 space mission, designed to land on Mars towards the end of the year.
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