Mars Express factsheet

Mapping Mars and searching for water

Name The name Mars Express originally came from the short time to define, prepare, and launch the mission.

Description Mars Express is Europe’s first spacecraft to the Red Planet. At launch, it carried seven instruments and a lander. The orbiter's instruments are now performing remote sensing of Mars from subsurface layers all the way up to free space. The lander, Beagle 2, would have performed on-the-spot investigations of the surface, using geochemical, exobiological and atmospheric parameters, but it was declared lost on 6 February 2004 after no signals were received. It was also designed to look for signs of past or present life.

Launch 2 June 2003 (on a Soyuz/Fregat launcher at Baikonur, Kazakhstan).

Status In operation

Journey Mars Express took six months to reach the Red Planet, arriving 25 December 2003.

Notes On 27 August 2003, Mars makes its closest approach to Earth for 17 years. The timing of the Mars Express mission has taken this into account.

Most of the velocity needed to send Mars Express on its journey to Mars was provided by the fourth stage of the Soyuz (the Fregat stage). It placed the spacecraft on a Mars-bound trajectory before separating from the spacecraft. The spacecraft used its on-board engine for Mars orbit insertion and orbit corrections.

Six days after separation from Mars Express, the lander entered the Martian atmosphere. Its rocky ride through the atmosphere to land on the surface should have taken no longer than ten minutes. No signals were received by orbiting spacecraft or Earth-based radio telescopes.

One of the main objectives of Mars Express is to comprehensively search for traces of water from deep underground up to the highest layers of the atmosphere.

Mars Express can also provide relay communication services between the Earth and the two NASA rovers, deployed on the surface in early 2004, so forming a centrepiece of the international effort in Mars exploration.

Last update: 2 November 2004

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