When Europe's Mars lander, Beagle II, lands on the Martian regolith tomorrow (Dec. 25), the final leg of a race for bragging rights for the discovery of life on Mars—probably the most desired victor's wreath in space since Neil Armstrong claimed the moon for the US—will be underway.

The Beagle II and NASA's landers (Spirit and Opportunity) are all part of the global scientific community's patient desire to find life on Mars while holding hands and complimenting each other's national cuisines. In fact, however, Beagle II is a high risk grab for the brass ring that will either bring immeasurable scientific reward to the Europeans that designed and paid for it or it will send back data that will be as inconclusive as NASA's Viking experiment's on the Martian surface in 1977.

The various space agencies are going about it in a very different way. The European Space Agency...

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