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HK Scientists to Join New Mars Exploration

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China scientists will get another job in Mars exploration after the British-made Beagle II landing craft carrying their tools failed the mission recently.

Monday's South China Morning Post reported that the Russian Space Agency plans to use the same or modified rock corer designed by Hong Kong Polytechnic University engineers on its scheduled 2009 mission to orbit Mars and to land on the Phobos, one of its two moons.

"The Russian Space Agency has confirmation for the first time on the matter," said university team member Ng Tze Chuen.

The Hong Kong-made equipment weighs less than 400 grams and is designed to grind rock surfaces and to drill and extract samples from rock cores.

Chuen said the Phobos spacecraft could carry up to four Beagle III Landers, the expected next generation of the EU landing craft.

Just before last Christmas, the Beagle II successfully separated from the orbiter Mars Express and was scheduled to land on Christmas Day. But it failed to send back radio signals and is now considered lost.

The European Space Agency, which has close relations with its Russian counterpart, is now planning Exo Mars, a 2009 mission to land a rover on the planet.

The Polytechnic University team also hopes to work on this mission, said Ng.

(Xinhua News Agency March 15, 2004)

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