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Europa arrives to Mars

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(25th December 2003)

By Guillem Anglada-Escudé anglada@am.ub.es

Mars Express en òrbita entorn Mart
Artistic image of the probe orbiting Mars.
(Courtesy of the ESA)

After having been travelling for more than 7 months, the european spacecraft Mars Express arrives to the Red Planet's orbit next 25th December over 2 o'clock UT. On 19th December the lander module Beagle 2 was successfully released from the mother spacecraft. This lander, english made, carries six little instruments to make measurements in situ on the martian surface. It's the first time Europe (European Space Agency) arrives to another planet.

Impressió artística del Beagle 2 en el seu lloc d'aterratge

Appearance of the Beagle 2 at its landing point after the airbags have been released.
(Courtesy of the ESA)

The Beagle 2 will land on a martian region called Isidis Planitia. It is a 1500 km wide valley sorrounded by the high lands that spread over the main part of the equatorial region of Mars and an area of its southern hemisphere, towards every direction except north, where the low lands characteristic of martian northern hemisphere appear. We cannot be sure about the exact landing point, but there are a 99% probability that it belongs to the ellipse depicted in the map, wich is 120 km diameter and is centered at 11.6º north and 269.5º west.

Lloc aterratge: Isidis Planitia

(All Rights Reserved Beagle 2)
Isidis Planitia map with false colors to show the relative height of the lands.
(Blue - low lands, Yellow - high lands).

The Orbiter Probe has to carry out the braking manoeuvre at the same hour, to remain in an elliptical orbit at an average of 400 km above the surface. It has to make lots of measurements both about the atmosphere and the mineral composition of the surfaces and the highest km of the underground, where it is expected to found great amounts of water mixed with rocks and sand. It also includes an stereo camera which will make possible to take images of the surface with an exceptional resolution of 10 meters (even an astonishing 2 meters in selected areas).

Aproximació a Mart

Mars from 5.5 million km obtained on 1st December from the Mars Express spacecraft.
(Courtesy of the ESA)

You can follow the evolution of the mission via web, and TV if you can watch satellite ESA's channel. For more information about the mission, its history and the scientific experiments on board, look the ESA's pages up:

The information and images on this page come from the public pages of ESA.

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