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Mars Express
Mars Express Mission to Mars

Goals: The European Space Agency's Mars Express was designed to study the geology, atmosphere, surface environment, history of water and potential for life on Mars. It also carried Great Britain's Beagle 2 lander to Mars. The fast-track mission borrowed technology from the failed Mars 96 mission and the Rosetta comet-chaser mission.

Accomplishments: Mars Express was Europe's first mission to another planet. It provided subsurface measurements with the first radar instrument ever flown to Mars, and discovered underground water-ice deposits. It sent back mineralogical evidence for the presence of liquid water throughout Martian history and studied the density of the Martian crust in detail. The orbiter's unique orbit also has allowed it to make up-closed studies of Phobos, the larger of Mars' two moons. The mission has been extended several times.

Mars Express delivered Beagle 2 as intended, but unfortunately contact was lost with the lander before it reached the surface.


Key Dates
2 Jun 2003:  Launch (17:45 UT)
19 Dec 2003:  Beagle 2 Lander Release (Unsuccessful)
25 Dec 2003:  Mars Orbit Insertion
Status: Extended Mission in Progress
Fast Facts
Mars Express Facts Mars Express was completed in less time than any other comparable planetary mission by ESA, hence its name: Mars Express. Mars Express is also ESA's first visit to another planet.

Mars Express used 427 kg (941 pounds) of fuel to boost itself into orbit around the Red Planet.

Mars Express carries a small sample of Ferrari's red paint (Rosso Corsa) in a tiny 2 cm glass globe nicknamed "Fred." Ferrari red is synonymous with speed and this paint sample aboard Mars Express traveled 10,800 km/h (6,711 miles/h). Now that's fast.

Mars Express was the was the first spacecraft to detect methane in the planet's atmosphere from orbit.

The orbiter also found Mars' auroras are unique from other planets in our solar system.
Science & Technology Features
People Spotlight
Steve Squyres Steve Squyres
Steve is best known as principal Investigator for the Mars Exploration Rovers, but he's contributed to many of the greatest robotic missions. Read More...
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Last Updated: 10 Mar 2014