Mars Express (Credit: ESA)
ESA (link opens in a new window) launched the Mars Express (MEX) satellite from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Khazakstan on 2 June 2003 and the satellite celebrated one Martian year of operations (23 Earth months) in November 2005. ESA has since extended the funding for Mars Express.
There are seven instruments on MEX which help scientists study the planet Mars and its moons. The instruments will map the entire surface of Mars, produce a map of the mineral composition of the surface, map the composition of the atmosphere and determine its global circulation. It will look at the effect of the atmosphere on the surface, and the interaction of the atmosphere with the solar wind.
Phobos (Credit: ESA / HRSC)
The instruments have sent back many exciting images and scientific data. There are perspective images of the giant (extinct) volcano Olympus Mons, which is 25km high with a caldera 65km across. There is evidence of dust being blown off the edge of a crater, and the wind-blown features called yardangs on the surface. MEX has imaged several of the deep valleys on Mars, and found evidence of flooding at the Mangala Valles. It found evidence of water ice at both the North and South Poles of Mars. The satellite also passes close to the two moons of Mars, Phobos and Deimos, at various times, allowing the instruments to study them at close range.
RAL Space supplied the micro-channel plates for ASPERA-3 (Analyzer of Space Plasma and EneRgetic Atoms), one of the instruments on Mars Express. We were also part of the team, led by IRF Sweden, studying the erosion of the atmosphere by the solar wind and are collaborating with IFSI Italy to study dust in the atmosphere. We have also provided the Payload Operations Service for Mars Express supporting science operations under contract to ESA.
Instruments on Mars Express
ASPERA (link opens in a new window) Energetic Neutral Atoms Analyser will study the energetic ions, electrons and atoms in Mars outer atmosphere, and show how they interact with the solar wind. RAL scientists are members of this Swedish-led team.
Olympus Mons Caldera
(Credit: ESA / HRSC)
SPICAM (link opens in a new window) Ultraviolet and Infrared Atmospheric Spectrometer will study the composition of the atmosphere, especially looking at water vapour and ozone.
PFS (link opens in a new window) Planetary Fourier Spectrometer will study the composition of the atmosphere, especially looking at the pressure and temperature profile of carbon dioxide, the major component of Mars atmosphere.
HRSC (link opens in a new window): High Resolution Stereo Camera images the surface in full colour and in 3D.
OMEGA (link opens in a new window) Visible and Infrared Mineralogical Mapping Spectrometer builds up maps of surface composition looking at rocks and clays.
- MARSIS: Sub-Surface Sounding Radar Altimeter using a 40 metre antenna will investigate the depth of the sand, sediment, and look for sub-surface ice or water. Its radar signals can also probe Mars' ionosphere.
MaRS (link opens in a new window)Mars Radio Science Experiment uses the radio signals between Earth and Mars Express to probe the planet's ionosphere, atmosphere, surface and even the interior. When Mars appears close to the Sun, as seen from Earth, MaRS can also probe the Sun's atmosphere (the corona).
Links to other Mars Express sites
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