National Aeronautics and Space Administration Logo
Follow this link to skip to the main content NASA Banner
Solar System Exploration
News & Events
Hunting Mars' Water
Hunting Mars' Water
23 Jan 2004
(Source: European Space Agency)

http://www.esa.int/export/SPECIALS/Mars_Express/SEM8ZB474OD_0.html

N? 06-2004 - Paris, 23 January 2004

Mars Express sees its first water - scientific results
European Space Agency

Mars Express, ESA's first mission to Mars, will reach its final orbit on 28 January. It has already been producing stunning results since its first instrument was switched on, on 5 January. The significance of the first data was emphasised by the scientists at a European press conference today at ESA's Space Operations Centre, Darmstadt, Germany.

"I did not expect to be able to gather together - just one month after the Mars Orbit Insertion on 25 December - so many happy scientists eager to present their first results", said Professor David Southwood, ESA Director of Science.

One of the main targets of the Mars Express mission is to discover the presence of water in one of its chemical states. Through the initial mapping of the south polar cap on 18 January, OMEGA, the combined camera and infrared spectrometer, has already revealed the presence of water ice and carbon dioxide ice. This information was confirmed by the PFS, a new high-resolution spectrometer of unprecedented accuracy. The first PFS data also show that the carbon oxide distribution is different in the northern and southern hemispheres of Mars.

The MaRS instrument, a sophisticated radio transmitter and receiver, emitted a first signal successfully on 21 January that was received on Earth through a 70-metre antenna in Australia after it was reflected and scattered from the surface of Mars. This new measurement technique allows the detection of the chemical composition of the Mars atmosphere, ionosphere and surface.

ASPERA, a plasma and energetic neutral atoms analyser, is aiming to answer the fundamental question of whether solar wind erosion led to the present lack of water on Mars. The preliminary results show a difference in the characteristics between the impact of the solar wind area and the measurement made in the tail of Mars. Another exciting experiment was run by the SPICAM instrument (an ultraviolet and infrared spectrometer) during the first star occultation ever made at Mars. It has simultaneously measured the distribution of ozone and water vapour, which has never been done before, revealing that there is more water vapour where there is less ozone.

ESA also presented astonishing pictures produced with the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) . They represent the outcome of 1.87 million km2 of Martian surface coverage, and about 100 gigabytes of processed data. This camera was also able to make the longest swath (up to 4000 km) and largest area in combination with high resolution ever taken in the exploration of the Solar System.

This made it possible to create an impressive picture 24 metres long by 1.3 metre high, which was carried through the conference room at the end of the press event by a group of 10-year-old children.

Mrs Edelgard Bulmahn, German Minister for Research and Education, who is also chair of the ESA Council at ministerial level, said at the press conference: "Europe can be proud of this mission: Mars Express is an enormous success for the European space programme."

For further information please contact:
ESA Media Relations Office
Tel: +33(0)1.53.69.7155
Fax: +33(0)1.53.69.7690

News Archive Search  Go!
Show  results per page
 
 
Awards and Recognition   Solar System Exploration Roadmap   Contact Us   Site Map   Print This Page
NASA Official: Kristen Erickson
Advisory: Dr. James Green, Director of Planetary Science
Outreach Manager: Alice Wessen
Curator/Editor: Phil Davis
Science Writer: Autumn Burdick
Producer: Greg Baerg
Webmaster: David Martin
> NASA Science Mission Directorate
> Budgets, Strategic Plans and Accountability Reports
> Equal Employment Opportunity Data
   Posted Pursuant to the No Fear Act
> Information-Dissemination Policies and Inventories
> Freedom of Information Act
> Privacy Policy & Important Notices
> Inspector General Hotline
> Office of the Inspector General
> NASA Communications Policy
> USA.gov
> ExpectMore.gov
> NASA Advisory Council
> Open Government at NASA
Last Updated: 24 Jan 2004