All aboard for the Red Planet

Mars Express, the European Space Agency's planned mission to the fourth stone from the Sun, Mars, received the green signal from all the 14 national delegations recently. Due to be launched sometime in the year 2003, Mars Express will be the first orbiter to use radar to penetrate the Martian surface and map the distribution of any possible underground water deposits. It will also include a lander christened Beagle 2, complete with its own burrowing robot to collect and analyst Martian soil samples (New Scientis4 Vol 160, No 2160).