Back to Camden for the last time this afternoon, to see if Mars Express, now in a suitable polar orbit, will pick up anything as it passes over Beagle 2�s presumed landing site. The press room is absolutely packed, with at least a dozen TV crews. Colin is, for the first time, looking and sounding tired, maybe beaten. His tongue slips, only in minor ways, but enough to break something of the magic of his patter as he talks us through what could happen on this pass and in the future. Then, at three o�clock, David Southwood, ESA�s head of science, speaks to us over a poor-quality TV hookup from mission control in Darmstadt. It�s not good news, and Southwood�s not putting a particularly brave face on it. There�s no trace of Beagle in the data from Mars Express.
There are still some plausible scenarios in which Beagle is pretty much OK, but having difficulties in making contact. Over the next month they�re going to explore these possibilities. But though they�re plausible, the overwhelming likelihood now has to be that something went drastically wrong during the entry, descent and landing.
The loss has been oddly gradual. Those more closely involved could probably say when they began to feel that hope was forlorn, but to a more casual observer it�s hard. The lack of contact at Christmas was a disappointment but not fatal; the near certainty of loss today was no surprise, really. And for me, at least, there was no clear moment in between when hope went through a step change from high to low. It just faded until it was more a memory of hope than hope itself. And now the memory of the hope is all there is.