Europe’s leading space and satellite company, EADS Astrium, whose Stevenage-based engineers and technicians¬†designed and built the Beagle 2 Mars Lander, today announced that it has become Beagle 2’s first commercial sponsor. EADS Astrium’s backing, worth over ¬£1 million, is the first sponsorship of its kind in space exploration.

Beagle 2, Britain’s first mission to Mars, was successfully launched on ESA’s Mars Express spacecraft in June and is due to land on Christmas Day 2003. The company sees this as a unique opportunity to inspire the next generation of engineers and scientists, as well as to engage with a global audience.

Dr Mike Healy, EADS Astrium’s Director of Earth Observation, Navigation and Science UK, believes that Britain’s contribution to space technology and exploration is one of the nation’s best-kept secrets. He adds¬†“Beagle 2 will help us to highlight the amazing potential of this technology and inspire younger generations who will be the engineers and scientists of the future.”

EADS Astrium is already well established as a sponsor and supporter of educational projects such as the National Space Science Centre is Leicester and the UK Space School. With this mission to inspire and educate in mind, EADS Astrium will launch a UK schools competition in September directly linked to its involvement with Beagle 2.

There is no shortage of exciting challenges ahead in the future for young people with a passion for space exploration. EADS Astrium is already working on both the Venus Express Orbiter, which will be launched in 2005, and the ISHTAR mission to study Near-Earth Objects (NEOs).