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Mars Express Mission Information


Mars Express Mission

Mars Express Mission


Key Dates:

  • 06.02.03: Launch (17:45 UT)
  • 11.22.03 - 12.24.03: Mars Orbit Insertion
  • 12.19.03: Beagle 2 Lander Release
  • Status: Orbiting Mars

Fast Facts:

Mars Express is carrying a sample of Ferrari red paint (right) to the Red Planet.

Mars Express is the European Space Agency's first visit to another planet.

Mars Express used 427 kg (941 pounds) of fuel to put it in orbit the Red Planet.

Mars Express Mission Information:

Mars Express is a European Space Agency (ESA) mission to Mars. It consisted of an orbiter, the Mars Express Orbiter, and a lander, Beagle 2. The scientific objectives of the Mars Express Orbiter are to obtain global high-resolution photo-geology (10 m resolution), mineralogical mapping (100 m resolution) and mapping of the atmospheric composition, study the subsurface structure, the global atmospheric circulation, and the interaction between the atmosphere and the subsurface, and the atmosphere and the interplanetary medium.
The Beagle 2 lander objectives were to characterize the landing site geology, mineralogy, and geochemistry, the physical properties of the atmosphere and surface layers, collect data on martian meteorology and climatology, and search for possible signatures of life.

Launch took place on a Soyuz/Fregat from Baikonur Cosmodrome on 2 June 2003 at 23:45 local time (17:45 UT, 1:45 p.m. EDT), with the Mars Express and Fregat booster put into a 200 km Earth parking orbit. The Fregat was fired again at 19:14 UT to put the spacecraft into a Mars transfer orbit, and the Fregat and Mars Express separated at approximately 19:17 UT. The solar panels have been deployed and a trajectory correction maneuver will be performed on 4 June to aim Mars Express towards Mars and allow the Fregat booster to coast into interplanetary space. Mars Express arrived at Mars after a 400 million km journey and a course correction in September, in December 2003. The Beagle 2 lander was released on 19 December at 8:31 UTC (9:31 CET) on a ballistic cruise towards the surface. On 20 December, Mars Express fired a short thruster burst to put it into position to orbit the planet. The Mars Express Orbiter fired its main engine for 37 minutes on 25 December at 2:47 UT (9:47 p.m. EST, 24 December) and went into a highly elliptical 250 km x 150,000 km initial capture orbit with an inclination of 25 degrees. The orbit will be adjusted by four more main engine firings starting on 30 December to the desired 258 km x 11,560 km near polar (86.3 degree inclination) orbit with a period of 7.5 hours. Near periapsis the top deck will be pointed down towards the martian surface and near apoapsis the high gain antenna will be pointed towards Earth for uplink and downlink. After 440 days the apoapsis will be lowered to 10,107 km and periapsis will be raised to 298 km to give an orbital period of 6.7 hours. Aerobraking can be used to modify the orbit if there are any problems with the main engine. Nominal mission duration is planned to be 1 martian year (687 Earth days).

The Beagle 2 coasted for five days after release and entered the martian atmosphere on the morning of 25 December. Landing was expected to occur at about 02:54 UT on 25 December (9:54 p.m. EST 24 December). No signals have been received and the lander was declared lost. The Mars Express orbiter is still in operation.

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