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Fwd = Mars Express En Route For The Red Planet

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  • Frits Westra
    Forwarded by: fwestra@hetnet.nl (Frits Westra) Originally from: Ron Baalke - Mars Exploration Program Original Subject: Mars Express
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 3 3:10 AM
      Forwarded by: fwestra@... (Frits Westra)
      Originally from: Ron Baalke - Mars Exploration Program <info@...>
      Original Subject: Mars Express En Route For The Red Planet
      Original Date: Mon, 2 Jun 2003 17:36:29 -0500

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      N° 36-2003:

      Mars Express en route for the Red Planet
      European Space Agency
      2 June 2003

      The European Mars Express spaceprobe has been placed successfully in
      a trajectory that will take it beyond the terrestrial environment
      and on the way to Mars - getting there in late December. This first
      European Space Agency probe to head for another planet will enter an
      orbit around Mars, from where it will perform detailed studies of
      the planet's surface, its subsurface structures and its atmosphere.
      It will also deploy Beagle 2, a small autonomous station which will
      land on the planet, studying its surface and looking for possible
      signs of life, past or present.

      The probe, weighing in at 1 120 kg, was built on ESA's behalf by a
      European team led by Astrium. It set out on its journey to Mars
      aboard a Soyuz-Fregat launcher, under Starsem operational
      management. The launcher lifted off from Baikonur in Kazakhstan on 2
      June at 23.45 local time (17:45 GMT). An interim orbit around the
      Earth was reached following a first firing of the Fregat upper
      stage. One hour and thirty-two minutes later the probe was injected
      into its interplanetary orbit.

      "Europe is on its way to Mars to stake its claim in the most
      detailed and complete exploration ever done of the Red Planet. We
      can be very proud of this and of the speed with which have achieved
      this goal", said David Southwood, ESA's Director of Science
      witnessing the launch from Baikonur. Contact with Mars Express has
      been established by ESOC, ESA's satellite control centre, located in
      Darmstadt, Germany. The probe is pointing correctly towards the Sun
      and has deployed its solar panels. All on-board systems are
      operating faultlessly. Two days from now, the probe will perform a
      corrective maneuvre that will place it in a Mars-bound trajectory,
      while the Fregat stage, trailing behind, will vanish into space -
      there will be no risk of it crashing into and contaminating the Red

      Mars Express will then travel away from Earth at a speed exceeding
      30 km/s (3 km/s in relation to the Earth), on a six-month and 400
      million kilometre journey through the solar system. Once all payload
      operations have been checked out, the probe will be largely
      deactivated. During this period, the spacecraft will contact Earth
      only once a day. Mid-journey correction of its trajectory is
      scheduled for September.

      There in time for Christmas

      Following reactivation of its systems at the end of November, Mars
      Express will get ready to release Beagle 2. The 60 kg capsule
      containing the tiny lander does not incorporate its own propulsion
      and steering system and will be released into a collision trajectory
      with Mars, on 20 December. It will enter the Martian atmosphere on
      Christmas day, after five days ballistic flight. As it descends,
      the lander will be protected in the first instance by a heat-shield;
      two parachutes will then open to provide further deceleration. With
      its weight down to 30 kg at most, it will land in an equatorial
      region known as Isidis Planitia. Three airbags will soften the final
      impact. This crucial phase in the mission will last just ten
      minutes, from entry into the atmosphere to landing.

      Meanwhile, the Mars Express probe proper will have performed a
      series of maneuvres through to a capture orbit. At this point its
      main motor will fire, providing the deceleration needed to acquire a
      highly elliptical transition orbit. Attaining the final operational
      orbit will call for four more firings. This 7.5 hour quasi-polar
      orbit will take the probe to within 250 km of the planet.

      Getting to know Mars - inside and out

      Having landed on Mars, Beagle 2 - named after HMS Beagle, on which
      Charles Darwin voyaged round the world, developing his evolutionary
      theory - will deploy its solar panels and the payload adjustable
      workbench, a set of instruments (two cameras, a microscope and two
      spectrometers) mounted on the end of a robot arm. It will proceed to
      explore its new environment, gathering geological and mineralogical
      data that should, for the first time, allow rock samples to be dated
      with absolute accuracy. Using a grinder and corer, and the "mole", a
      wire-guided mini-robot able to borrow its way under rocks and dig
      the ground to a depth of 2 m, samples will be collected and then
      examined in the GAP automated mini-laboratory, equipped with 12
      furnaces and a mass spectrometer. The spectrometer will have the job
      of detecting possible signs of life and dating rock samples.

      The Mars Express orbiter will carry out a detailed investigation of
      the planet, pointing its instruments at Mars for between
      half-an-hour and an hour per orbit and then, for the remainder of
      the time, at Earth to relay the information collected in this way
      and the data transmitted by Beagle 2.

      The orbiter's seven on-board instruments are expected to provide
      considerable information about the structure and evolution of Mars.
      A very high resolution stereo camera, the HRSC, will perform
      comprehensive mapping of the planet at 10 m resolution and will even
      be capable of photographing some areas to a precision of barely 2 m.
      The OMEGA spectrometer will draw up the first mineralogical map of
      the planet to 100 m precision. This mineralogical study will be
      taken further by the PFS spectrometer - which will also chart the
      composition of the Martian atmosphere, a prerequisite for
      investigation of atmospheric dynamics. The MARSIS radar instrument,
      with its 40 m antenna, will sound the surface to a depth of 2 km,
      exploring its structure and above all searching for pockets of
      water. Another instrument, ASPERA, will be tasked with investigating
      interaction between the upper atmosphere and the interplanetary
      medium. The focus here will be on determining how and at what rate
      the solar wind, in the absence of a magnetic field capable of
      deflecting it, scattered the bulk of the Martian atmosphere into
      space. Atmospheric investigation will also be performed by the
      SPICAM spectrometer and the MaRS experiment, with special emphasis
      on stellar occultation and radio signal propagation phenomena.

      The orbiter mission should last at least one Martian year (687
      days), while Beagle 2 is expected to operate on the planet's surface
      for 180 days.

      Only a start to exploration

      This first European mission to Mars incorporates some of the
      objectives of the Euro-Russian Mars 96 mission, which came to grief
      when the Proton launcher failed. And indeed a Russian partner is
      cooperating on each of the orbiter's instruments. Mars Express forms
      part of an international Mars exploration programme, featuring also
      the US probes Mars Surveyor and Mars Odyssey, the two Mars
      Exploration Rovers and the Japanese probe Nozomi. Mars Express may
      perhaps, within this partnership, relay data from the NASA rovers
      while Mars Odyssey may, if required, relay data from Beagle 2.

      The mission's scientific goals are of outstanding importance. Mars
      Express will, it is hoped, supply answers to the many questions
      raised by earlier missions - questions concerning the planet's
      evolution, the history of its internal activity, the presence of
      water below its surface, the possibility that Mars may at one time
      have been covered by oceans and thus have offered an environment
      conducive to the emergence of some form of life, and even the
      possibility that life may still be present, somewhere in putative
      subterranean aquifers. In addition the lander doing direct analysis
      of the soil and the environment comprises a truly unique mission.

      Mars Express, drawing heavily on elements of the Rosetta spacecraft
      awaiting to be launched to a comet next year, paves the way for
      other ESA-led planetary missions, with Venus Express planned for
      2005 and the BepiColombo mission to Mercury at the end of the
      decade. It is a precursor too for continuing Mars mission activity
      under Aurora, the programme of exploration of our solar system.

      For further information, please contact:

      ESA Media Relations Service



      Further information:

      ESA, Media Relations Service
      Tel: +33.(0)1.5369.7155
      Fax: +33.(0)1.5369.7690

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