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Jonathan Amos, Science correspondent

Jonathan Amos Science correspondent

Come here for my take on UK and European space as well as the latest on major science stories

Beagle2: Small margins between success and failure

At far left, MEx snaps Beagle heading away towards Mars in its protective entry shell
Last contact: At far left, Beagle is snapped by MEx heading away towards Mars in its protective entry shell

"My nightmare is that Beagle is sat there on the surface of Mars still trying to talk to us and, for the sake of a broken cable, it's not."

That was Mark Sims, the mission manager on the UK-led Beagle2 mission to the Red Planet, speaking at the publication of the team's own inquiry report into what went wrong.

Knowing what we know now - with the pictures of an intact Beagle sitting on Mars - I asked Mark to reflect on those comments he made 11 years ago.

"My nightmare back in 2004 is probably pretty close to reality, unfortunately," he mused.

It should be some consolation to know that Beagle made it to the surface, but it is also deeply frustrating to realise that success was denied by such small margins.

Read full article Beagle2: Small margins between success and failure

'Planet' Pluto comes into view

Pluto artwork
New Horizons will zip past Pluto on 14 July, but take over a year to downlink its data

There are three letters you need to know this year: BTH.

They stand for "Better Than Hubble"; and in the next few months, we're going to witness two remarkable BTH events.

Read full article 'Planet' Pluto comes into view

Philae comet lander: Sleep well little probe

An emotional Andrea Accomazzo
Andrea Accomazzo would like to end the Rosetta satellite's mission by also landing it on the comet

European Space Agency controllers will not give up on Philae.

They will continue to listen for the little probe in the days ahead, hopeful that it will somehow become active again.

Read full article Philae comet lander: Sleep well little probe

History beckons for Rosetta comet mission

Artist's impression of Rosetta and Philae
A first for space exploration: No probe has previously made a soft touchdown on a comet

All is on course for Wednesday's ambitious attempt to put a probe on the surface of a comet.

Europe's Rosetta spacecraft is currently making a long arc around 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Read full article History beckons for Rosetta comet mission

Virgin Galactic descent system activated early, investigators say

SS2
SpaceShipTwo with the tailbooms in the feathered position - from an earlier test outing

Investigators probing the crash of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo craft have released the first hard facts about what happened during its ill-fated flight.

Onboard video and other data now indicate that a critical mechanism that ordinarily would only be used during the descent from sub-orbital space was activated at the beginning of the vehicle's journey skywards, on ascent.

Read full article Virgin Galactic descent system activated early, investigators say

Will Virgin SpaceShipTwo crash set back space tourism?

File photo: Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo under rocket power, over Mojave, California, 29 April 2013
Engineers had decided to use a plastic-based solid fuel in the rocket engine

The significance of Friday's flight had been signalled for some weeks.

Virgin Galactic executives had let it be known that they were about to initiate a series of test outings that they hoped would finally lead them into commercial service after years of delay.

Read full article Will Virgin SpaceShipTwo crash set back space tourism?

Egyptian Philae obelisk revealed anew

Oxford researchers
The obelisk has not been properly studied since it was erected on the Kingston Lacy estate

Fresh information is being obtained on the Philae obelisk, the stone monument that played such a key role in helping to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphs.

Today, the pink granite shaft stands on the UK National Trust's Kingston Lacy estate in Dorset, where it was brought from the Nile in the 1820s.

Read full article Egyptian Philae obelisk revealed anew

Rosetta comet: More black swan than yellow duck

NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute (Enceladus); ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team and Gordan Ugarkovich (Earth); Robert Vanderbei (Moon); ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM (67P)
Enceladus, Earth, the Moon, and 67P scaled according to their global albedo number

One of the coolest things about comets is their blackness.

Think of a lump of coal or the briquettes you put on the BBQ - that's what comets would look like if you could stand on their surface. And 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, currently being observed at close quarters by the European Space Agency's Rosetta mission, is no different.

Read full article Rosetta comet: More black swan than yellow duck

Virgin Galactic: Space could finally be getting closer

Powered flight
This is the year that Virgin Galactic should go sub-orbital - it hopes

"Soon" is the watchword. Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides says his passenger rocket plane should get into sub-orbital space within the next few months. Finally.

It's been a long road for the project, but you get the sense now that the light really could be starting to grow at the end of the tunnel.

Read full article Virgin Galactic: Space could finally be getting closer

Rosetta: Date fixed for historic comet landing attempt

Comet 67P
Comet 67P has a very irregular shape. Landing site "J" is just out of view to the right

The date has been fixed for Europe's daring attempt to land on a comet: Wednesday 12 November.

It will see the Rosetta satellite, which is currently orbiting the huge "ice mountain" known as 67P, drop a small robot from a height of 20km.

Read full article Rosetta: Date fixed for historic comet landing attempt

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About Jonathan

Jonathan has been a science specialist with the BBC since 1994.

He was part of the team that set up the BBC News website in 1997.

His online science reporting has won major awards in Britain.

Jonathan is perhaps best known for his European space coverage.

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