OUT OF THIS WORLD!

The Beagle 2 probe is set to land there - and if it does, the first signal we hear will be a Blur song...

As the rest of the country settles down with the turkey today (December 25), members of BLUR will be holed up inside CHESHIRE’s JODRELL BANK OBSERVATORY – waiting on word back from life on Mars.

Today sees the climax of the band-backed Beagle 2 project, the British effort to land on Mars. If things go to plan, the probe will land on the planet’s surface on Christmas Day and the first signal we Earthlings will hear back will be a Blur song.

Scientists are waiting for the signal, which wasn’t heard when the probe was supposed to land in the early hours of this morning. However, there is still a chance the signal will be heard later today.

Dave Rowntree explained that the band became involved with the project back in 1999, at the height of the campaign for their album ‘13’. He told NME.COM: “Alex [James] and I have always been fascinated by space exploration. They’d been going round banging their heads against a brick wall trying to get the funding. That’s where we came in. Because we had access to the media we were able to help out.”

However, Blur soon became more involved with the project, masterminded by Open University Professor Colin Pillinger. He continued: “They came up with such an ingenious scheme. When the probe lands it has to send a signal back to say that it’s landed, and that signal could be anything. And we said why not write a piece of music?”

Damon Albarn composed ‘Beagle 2’, a song which first appeared as a B-side to their 1999 single ‘No Distance Left To Run’. Today the team will be holed up in Jodrell Bank awaiting news of whether the Beagle has landed. If does, it will be the best Christmas present Dave has ever been given.

“Britain’s got great telescopes and great engineers, but we’ve never traditionally had a space programme to match that,” Dave told NME.COM. “Yet this might actually answer the question, is there life on Mars?”

Beagle is able to burrow into the surface of Mars. By probing, the team believe they can identify whether there has ever been water on the planet. Water would be the biggest breakthrough in discovering whether the planet has ever been capable of sustaining life.

The probe was named after the HMS Beagle, the vessel on which Charles Darwin began the epic voyage that led to the writing ‘On The Origin Of Species’.