Discoveries made during previous missions to Mars have shown that, before a climate change about 3000 million years ago, this was a warm and humid planet. Mars Express obtains information about the history of the Red Planet’s climate by carrying out global reconnaissance from orbit. This should clarify questions relating to the existence of water on the planet and how long it was there, if at all. It is hoped that by using comparative planetology, scientists will be able to establish parallels between Mars and Earth, allowing them for example to make more accurate statements about the long-term development of our own planet.
The Mars Express Orbiter's tasks:
- globally map the surface of Mars, both topographically and morphologically, with a nominal resolution of 10 metres in all three dimensions, and take telephoto images with a resolution of up to 2 metres
- create geological and mineralogical maps by taking multi-coloured images
- analyse atmospheric processes and composition
- study the subterranean structure (particularly in the search of permafrost)
- study the interaction between the planet's surface and the atmosphere
- study the interaction between the atmosphere and the interplanetary medium
The Beagle 2 lander was designed to:
- study the meteorology and climatology of the planet
- investigate the geology, mineralogy and geochemistry at the landing site
- analyse the physical properties of the atmosphere and surface layers
- look for traces of life (exobiology)
The Beagle 2 landing spacecraft has been declared lost.