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The Mission Mars Express
Following projects of Russia, Japan and the United States, Mars Express is the first European mission to Mars. Furthermore, Mars Express is the prototype of so-called flexible (F) missions within the scope of the long term research program "Horizon 2000 Plus" of the European Space Administration (ESA).
In addition to the European member countries of ESA, Poland and the United States are also involved in the Mars Express Mission. The main client for Mars Express is the company EADS Astrium, France. The project group responsible is an ESTEC-Team in Noordwijk, Netherlands. Starsem, Russia, is responsible for the rocket, while Alenia Aerospazio, Italy is in charge of the integration of the satellite. The lander Beagle 2 was developed and provided to the mission under British supervision. Germany is primarily involved in the mission with its high perfomance camera HRSC, the Mars Radio Science Experiment (MaRS) and the drilling rig PLUTO on the lander. Furthermore Germany is involved in the Planetary Fourier Spectrometer (PFS) and the cameras on the lander.
BackgroundMars has continued to fascinate mankind. In the past, one was largely dependent on American or Russian research. Now with the Mars Express Mission, Europe makes a great contribution to Mars research. The principal interest is the high-resolution mapping of the Martian surface. Further goals include the search for traces of life and the accumulation of knowledge about Mars that can be applied to understand the history of Earth's origin. The results from past missions to Mars indicate that prior to a major climate shift approximately 3.5 billion years ago, Mars was a temperate and humid planet. Currently, questions regarding the existence of water on Mars or the development of primitive lifeforms can not be definitively answered. By global, orbital remote sensing of the red planet by Mars Express, the paleoclimatology of Mars can be revealed, the whereabouts of the pre-existing water can be researched and finally the search for microbiological lifeforms is possible. Employing the comparative planetology researchers hope to create parallels to Earth in order to be able to make long term predictions regarding the future development of our planet.
Objectives of the Mars Express Orbiter
- Global, high-resolution topographic and morphological mapping of the Mars surface with a nominal resolution of 10 metres in all 3 dimensions, as well as super resolution imaging with a resolution of 2 metres.
- Geological and mineralogical mapping of the surface using multi-coloured images with a resolution of 100 m
- Analysis of the atmospheric composition and processes taking place in the atmosphere
- Examination of sub-surface processes (especially permafrost)
- Interaction of the planets surface and atmosphere
- Interaction of the atmosphere with interplanetary media (sunwinds)