Mars Express photographed by Mars Global Surveyor

Mars Express, as seen by Mars Global Surveyor
19 May 2005

ESA’s Mars Express spacecraft was photographed by NASA's Mars Global Surveyor on 20 April 2005.

This is the first successful imaging of any spacecraft orbiting another planet taken by another spacecraft orbiting that planet.

The picture is a composite of two views of Mars Express that the NASA spacecraft took with its on-board Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC), from distances of about 250 and 370 kilometres.

Mars Express appears in the image as a narrow blur rather than as a well-defined spacecraft shape. This is due to the large distance between the two spacecraft when the two images could be taken and due to a strong effect of apparent motion which could not be corrected for.

Mars Express appears to be about 1.5 metres high and 15 metres long, which is consistent with the viewing distance, pixel scale and encounter geometry. The components of Mars Express when viewed from the same angle as this image can be seen in an artist's rendition.

Since January 2004, Mars Express has been orbiting the Red Planet in a highly elliptical polar orbit, now ranging between 310 and 10 080 kilometres from the planet’s surface. Mars Global Surveyor has been orbiting Mars since September 1997 in a near-circular near-polar orbit, currently at an average altitude of 380 kilometres during its mapping phase.

Mars Express operations are managed by the ESA’s European Space Operations Centre (ESOC), Darmstadt, Germany. Mars Global Surveyor is managed by JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington DC.

For more information:
Fred Jansen, ESA Mars Express Mission Manager
E-mail: fjansen @

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