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Fwd = Mars Express: Europe Takes The Lead

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  • Frits Westra
    Forwarded by: fwestra@hetnet.nl Originally from: Charles J. Fiterman Original Subject: SpaceandFlight: Weekly News - July
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 1, 2000
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      Forwarded by: fwestra@...
      Originally from: "Charles J. Fiterman" <fiterman@...>
      Original Subject: SpaceandFlight: Weekly News - July 1, 2000
      Original Date: Fri, 30 Jun 2000 20:02:27 -0700

      ========================== Forwarded message begins ======================

      Mars Express: Europe Takes The Lead (Space.com) - A $200 million European
      mission just three years from launch may well take the next giant step in
      the hunt for water on Mars. The European Space Agency�s Mars Express
      spacecraft should give scientists the best idea yet of where to find water
      on the Red Planet today. That information could aid follow-up spacecraft
      in targeting the places most likely to find life, as well as the resources
      that could provide future human missions with air to breathe, water to
      drink and fuel for the return trip home. Just last week, NASA unveiled
      photographic evidence culled from the thousands of images snapped by its
      Mars Global Surveyor that there may be vast stores of liquid water near
      the planet�s surface. The Mars Express will literally peer below the
      planet�s surface to map the extent of those reservoirs. "Because these
      discoveries on Mars are very significant, this is actually one of our main
      goals: a subsurface sounding radar on the orbiter will look for water and
      ice under the surface of Mars," said Augustin Chicarro, the Mars Express
      project scientist. The probe will study the planet for a full Martian year
      (687 days) with seven high-resolution instruments. After a six-month
      journey, the Mars Express spacecraft will enter into orbit around Mars in
      December 2003. Although it will circle Mars for the duration of its
      mission, it will also dispatch a small lander called the Beagle 2 to the
      planet�s surface. From high in orbit, the satellite will use its
      instrument array to peel back the Martian surface to map the depth and
      extent of the aquifers that supplied the water that carved the gully
      features recently shown by the Global Surveyor. The Beagle 2 will also
      advance the cause: The tiny spacecraft will use its instruments, robotic
      arm and cameras to search the planet�s surface for water, minerals and
      organic materials. Tempting as it may be, the spacecraft would have a
      difficult time reaching many of the sites that the recent Mars Global
      Surveyor images suggest held water, said Colin Pillinger, the mission�s
      lead scientist. Although scientists have yet to pick its final
      destination, the lander cannot be reliably put down on Mars with the
      pinpoint accuracy necessary to investigate a specific site. But, Pillinger
      said, the team would do its best to target a spot as near as possible to
      the places most likely to hold traces of water. To land near water, he
      said, is to land near life. "We would like to be able to choose a site of
      recent water," said Pillinger, a professor at the Open University in the
      United Kingdom. "This would enhance our chances of discovering past life,
      and increase our chances of finding current life. It's a very big
      discovery." Rudi Schmidt, the mission�s project manager, said the
      best-case scenario would have the Beagle 2 land within an ellipse roughly
      62 miles (100 kilometers) long by 12 miles (20 kilometers) wide. "I think
      the generic approach we're taking is to make things as simple as
      possible," Schmidt said. "We have a 60-kilogram (132-pound) lander which
      is smaller compared to the NASA lander." Meanwhile, the talk at NASA is of
      improving landing technology so that the U.S. can follow, or possibly
      match, the Europeans with a Martian lander of its own. Due to the recent
      losses of the Mars Climate Orbiter and Polar Lander spacecraft, the
      American space agency has scaled back its plans to explore Mars. It
      cancelled a 2001 lander outright, opting instead to send just an orbiter
      to Mars. It may choose to do the same in 2003, again choosing to send only
      an orbiter, but not a lander. Eventually, NASA hopes it can send small,
      versatile spacecraft to specific locations that larger landers could never
      reach. "The intent is to build the pieces that would allow us to go to the
      most interesting places on Mars," said James Garvin, NASA's Mars program
      scientist. "We need to make an investment. We're talking about precision
      landing." Mars Express is scheduled to be launched in June 2003 on a Soyuz
      rocket at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

      Message From "Charles J. Fiterman" <fiterman@...>
      to Space, Astronomy and Aviation Mailing List.

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