Rush Hour on Mars

LANDING POD: An artist's rendition of Britain's Beagle 2, a probe designed to find life on Mars

Life on Mars — it is an earthling's fantasy as old as Eldorado or the Holy Grail. And yet mankind may be on the brink of actually proving whether there is, or ever has been, life on the Red Planet. This spring three spacecraft are scheduled to take off for Mars. But in the greatest challenge to the primacy of the U.S. space program since Sputnik, the honor of confirming life on Mars is not expected to fall to some brash NASA spacecraft, but to a quirky British-built pod assembled by a shaggy-haired English egghead.

The British...

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