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ISSUE 3 - May 2008





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Framing Space: UK Newspaper Reporting of the Beagle 2 and Cassini–Huygens Space Missions (page 5-11)
Blanka Jergovic, Steve Miller

Summary
Relatively little scholarly work has been done on looking at the portrayal of astronomy and space science in the media. This short article examines the UK press coverage of two space missions: the Beagle 2 mission to Mars and the Cassini–Huygens mission to Saturn and its moon Titan. In both cases, the leading scientists exerted a strong influence on what journalists reported, to the extent that some journalists appeared to be almost “embedded” in the mission. For the most part the coverage is positive in tone and the loss of the Beagle 2 spacecraft does not reflect badly on the (later) Cassini–Huygens coverage. Most journalists only covered the actual mission events and, in the case of Huygens, did not follow up to cover the peer-reviewed scientific articles that appeared later. Off-the-cuff comments made by scientists at the time of the missions were widely reported. There appears to be an appreciation by journalists and (by inference) their readership that this was science in the making, and that allowances should be made if these comments later turned out to be inaccurate.