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ESA's Mars Express probe over the Tharsis volcano



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ESA's Mars Express probe over the Tharsis volcano
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Five years ago, on 2 June 2003, Mars Express was launched.

At this time of year the positions of the two planets made for the shortest possible route, a condition that occurs once every 26 months.

The intrepid spacecraft began its six-month journey from the Baikonur launch site in Kazakhstan on board a Russian Soyuz/Fregat launcher.

Having escaped the Earth's pull, Mars Express was sent on course for the Red Planet, cruising at a velocity of 10 800 kilometres and hour, relative to Earth.

The orbiter successfully entered Martian orbit on 25 December. First it manoeuvred into a highly elliptical capture orbit from which it moved into its operational near polar orbit later in January 2004.

A major part of the mission is the German-designed and operated High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC). The HRSC photographs Mars in high resolution, in colour and in 3D.

This images shows an artist's impression of Mars Express over the Tharsis area.

Credit: JPL/NASA/ESA.
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