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Science & Exploration

Mars Express mission facts

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ESA / Science & Exploration / Space Science / Mars Express
How the mission was named: Mars Express is so called because it was built more quickly than any other comparable planetary mission. Beagle 2 was named after the ship in which Charles Darwin sailed when formulating his ideas about evolution.
Prime contractor: Astrium, Toulouse, France, leading a consortium of 24 companies from 15 European countries and the US
Launch date: 2 June 2003
Launcher: Soyuz/Fregat, built by Starsem, the European/Russian launcher consortium
Launch mass: 1120 kg (including 113 kg orbiter payload and 60 kg lander)
Lander: Beagle 2
Orbiter instruments: High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC); Energetic Neutral Atoms Analyser (ASPERA); Planetary Fourier Spectrometer (PFS); Visible and Infra Red Mineralogical Mapping Spectrometer (OMEGA); Sub-Surface Sounding Radar Altimeter (MARSIS); Mars Radio Science Experiment (MaRS); Ultraviolet and Infrared Atmospheric Spectrometer (SPICAM);
Spacecraft operations: European Space Operations Centre (ESOC), Darmstadt, Germany
Ground stations: ESA ground station in New Norcia, near Perth, Australia.
Arrival at Mars: December 2003

The Mars Express Orbiter will:

  • image the entire surface at high resolution (10 metres/pixel) and selected areas at super resolution (2 metres/pixel);
  • produce a map of the mineral composition of the surface at 100 metre resolution;
  • map the composition of the atmosphere and determine its global circulation;
  • determine the structure of the sub-surface to a depth of a few kilometres;
  • determine the effect of the atmosphere on the surface;
  • determine the interaction of the atmosphere with the solar wind.

The Beagle 2 lander was planned to:

  • determine the geology and the mineral and chemical composition of the landing site;
  • search for life signatures (exobiology);
  • study the weather and climate.

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