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Comprehensive mapping of the geology of Mars has moved closer to reality following the European Space Agency's recent approval for the $150M Mars Express project. The mission will see the British-built Beagle 2 lander launched in early June 2003 to carry out one of the most detailed surveys of the Martian geology and atmosphere ever undertaken. The project aims to sample and analyse the Martian surface and hopes to discover evidence of liquid water and past organic life on the red planet. Beagle 2 is being developed by a consortium of British universities and industrial partners, led by the Open University and Leicester University. It will spend up to two years on Mars, sampling and analysing soil and rock using its onboard laboratory.

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