Named because of the rapid and streamlined development time, the Mars Express Orbiter represents ESA’s first visit to another planet in the Solar System.
On June 2, 2003, the Mars Express orbiter was launched toward the red planet, entering into orbit just six months later. Though the accompanying Beagle 2 did not survive entry, the orbiter is still swinging around Mars ten years later.
Mars Express orbits roughly every 8 hours to collect data on Mars, its moons, and the Sun.
Mankind has been going to the red planet since the 1960s. As noted above, the missions have been met with varying success. The Mars Express Orbiter is one of the better examples of success.
Still, being in orbit around a planet about 140 million miles (225 million km) is nothing to sneeze at. Various problems in both the hardware and software have been overcome by mission specialists to keep the data flowing back to Earth.
Overcoming these technical challenges has resulted in fantastic discoveries in the last ten years.Mars Express has monitored all regions of the Martian environment, from the subsurface to the upper atmosphere to its two tiny moons, Phobos and Deimos.
Mars Express has helped find out that water was once present on Mars. In fact Mars Express helped find out that there is water locked up in the planet’s ice caps by using its ground-penetrating radar system. It seems that there may be enough water in the form of ice to cover the entire planet with a layer of water some 30 feet deep.
Happy anniversary Mars Express and a job well done to everyone at the ESA that keeps you flying. May you have many more.
– Ex astris, scientia –
I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California. As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +