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N° 74–2003: Are you ready for Mars? - Main media events surrounding the arrival of ESA’s Mars Express at Mars

6 November 2003

ESA’s Mars Express probe is scheduled to arrive at Mars at Christmas: the Beagle 2 lander is expected to touch down on the surface of the Red Planet on the night of 24 to 25 December.

Launched on 2 June 2003 from Baikonur (Kazakhstan) on board a Russian Soyuz launcher operated by Starsem, the European probe –built for ESA by a European team of industrial companies led by Astrium – carries seven scientific instruments that will perform a series of remote-sensing experiments designed to shed new light on the Martian atmosphere, the planet’s structure and its geology. In particular, the British-made Beagle 2 lander, named after the ship on which Charles Darwin explored uncharted areas of the Earth in 1830, will contribute to the search for traces of life on Mars through exobiology experiments and geochemistry research.

On Christmas Eve the Mars Express orbiter will be steered on a course taking it into an elliptical orbit, where it will safely circle the planet for a minimum of almost 2 Earth years. The Beagle 2 lander - which will have been released from the mother craft a few days earlier (on 19 December) – instead will stay on a collision course with the planet. It too should also be safe, being designed for atmospheric entry and geared for a final soft landing due to a sophisticated system of parachutes and airbags.

On arrival, the Mars Express mission control team will report on the outcome of the spacecraft's delicate orbital insertion manoeuvre. It will take some time for Mars Express to manouvre into position to pick communications from Beagle 2. Hence, initially, other means will be used to check that Beagle 2 has landed: first signals from the Beagle 2 landing are expected to be available throughout Christmas Day, either through pick-up and relay of Beagle 2 radio signals by NASA’s Mars Odyssey, or by direct pick-up by the Jodrell Bank radio telescope in the UK.

Mars Express will then pass over Beagle 2 in early January 2004, relaying data and images back to Earth. The first images from the cameras of Beagle 2 and Mars Express are expected to be available between the end of the year and the beginning of January 2004.

The key dates relating to the arrival of Mars Express at its destination will be marked by several media events not to be missed. Pencil them into your diaries so as not to miss one of the most exciting events of the year.

Tuesday 11 November

Mars Express/Beagle 2 Media briefing

Royal Society- 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London

10:00 - 13:00

-Status report on the mission

-Technical details on forthcoming Mars Express/Beagle 2 operations

-News handling arrangements around Christmas

Speakers: Prof. David Southwood, ESA Director of Science; Prof. Colin Pillinger, Beagle 2 Lander Lead Scientist; John Reddy, ESA Mars Express Principal Electrical Systems Engineer.

Contact: Peter Barratt, PPARC

Tel. + 44 (0) 1793 44 20 25

e-mail: Beagle2@pparc.ac.uk

Wednesday 3 December

ESA Media briefing

ESA/ ESOC, Darmstadt, Germany

10:30 - 12:30

-Scientific outlook and expected results

-Status report on the mission

-Presentation of upcoming events

Speakers: Rudolf Schmidt, ESA Mars Express Project Manager; Augustin Chicarro, ESA Mars Express Project Scientist. In addition, Mars Express scientists and Mission Control Managers will highlight their contribution to the Mars Express mission.

In videoconference with ESA/Headquarters, Paris (F); ESA/ESTEC, Noordwijk (NL), ESA/ESRIN, Frascati (I).

Contact: Jocelyne Landeau Constantin, ESA/ESOC

Tel. + 49 6151 90 26 96

e-mail: Jocelyne.Landeau-Constantin@esa.int

Friday 19 December

Mars Express Orbiter/ Beagle 2 separation

Mission Control Managers announce results of Beagle 2 separation from the mother craft.

a.Event at ESA/ESOC, Darmstadt , Germany

08:30 - 14:00

Speakers: Prof. David Southwood, ESA Director of Science; Rudolf Schmidt, ESA Mars Express Project Manager

Contact: Jocelyne Landeau Constantin, ESA/ESOC

Tel. + 49 6151 90 26 96

e-mail: Jocelyne.Landeau-Constantin@esa.int

b.Event in London -location and time t.b.c.

Speaker: Prof. Colin Pillinger, Beagle 2 Lander Lead Scientist.

Contact: Peter Barratt, PPARC

Tel. + 44 (0) 1793 44 20 25

e-mail: Beagle2@pparc.ac.uk

Thursday 25 December

Christmas on Mars

a.Media event at ESA/ ESOC, Darmstadt, Germany

03:00 - 07:00

Mars Express orbit insertion follow-up and Beagle 2 landing- Experience the accomplishment of one of the most exciting phases of the Mars Express mission in real time in the presence of Mission Control Managers and Scientists.

08:30 - 10:00

Christmas media brunch- Announcement of Mars orbit insertion results and Beagle 2 landing, with the participation of Prof. David Sourthwood, ESA Director of Science.

Contact: Jocelyne Landeau Constantin, ESA/ESOC

Tel. + 49 6151 90 26 96

e-mail: Jocelyne.Landeau-Constantin@esa.int

b.Event in central London – location and time t.b.c.

Contact: Peter Barratt, PPARC

Tel. + 44 (0) 1793 44 20 25

e-mail: Beagle2@pparc.ac.uk

Note to Editors: Timeline of expected main mission events

16 December

All day

Fine targeting of Mars Express to point at landing site – ranging

19 December

06:51 GMT/07:51 CET

Decision to release Beagle 2

08:41 GMT/09:41 CET

Eject command sent to Mars Express

10:15 GMT/11:15 CET

First results of release available

20 December

Re-targeting of Mars Express on an orbital insertion course

23 December

Update on Mars Express Orbital Insertion Sequence

24 December

Night

Final decision to steer Mars Express into a Martian orbit

25 December

02:45 GMT/03:45 CET

Beagle 2 landing on Mars

03:00 GMT/04:00 CET

Mars Express Orbital Insertion

05:15 GMT/06:15 CET

Mars Odyssey orbiter flight over Beagle 2

07:00 GMT/08:00 CET

First evaluation of Mars Express orbital insertion

22:45 GMT/23:45 CET

Possible direct capture of Beagle 2 signals at Jodrell Bank (UK)

For further information:

ESA Media Relations Division, Paris

Tel.: + 33 1 5369 7155

For further information:

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



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