Preparing for Beagle separation
Mars Express completed a precision-pointing manoeuvre to prepare for the planned release of the Beagle 2 lander on 19 December.
On 16 December, controllers at ESA's European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany, rotated the spacecraft and fired its engines briefly to increase the speed as it approaches Mars as part of the maneuvre.
This is one of the most accurate positionings of a satellite that ESA has had to do, and it was completed successfully.
The planned landing site has now been narrowed down to an area measuring almost 200 kilometres in length by and 50 kilometres in width. After the ejection procedure, the Mars Express orbiter will continue to follow the Beagle lander for five days before performing a braking manoeuvre (called Mars Orbit Insertion) that will put it into a 400-kilometre orbit around Mars.