Mars Express - Insight into the history of the Martian climate
Mars Express in orbit around MarsArtist's impression of the European spacecraft Mars Express in orbit around Mars (2003).
The striking landscape of Hydraotes Chaos on MarsThe first HRSC image, which was unveiled to the public in January 2004, showed the Hydraotes Chaos region - a labyrinth of mesas created by the eroding effect of masses of water draining away and ground collapsing to form great voids. Since then, the Mars Express probe has orbited Mars about 19,000 times at different altitudes. As a result, global coverage has seen constant improvement, with image resolutions of down to 12 metres per pixel. The image here shows a view recently acquired by HRSC from the equator looking north over the striking landscape of Hydraotes Chaos with its more than 2000-metre-high table-mountain outliers in the foreground. The outﬂow channels of Simud Valles (left) and Tiu Valles (right), which are up to 80 kilometres wide and more than 1000 kilometres long, extend as far as the horizon.
Landslides and delta-shaped alluvial fansIn the north, the Aurorae Chaos region is bound by a wall more than 3000 metres high. Along this steep – and unstable in places – surface feature, large rock masses break loose repeatedly, forming huge alluvial fan deposits. Semicircular indentations are left behind in the terrain edge. The landslides were most likely 'lubricated' by water, which existed as ice within hollow spaces under the plateau and suddenly melted. This would explain the alluvial fans extending into the Aurorae basin as well as the occasional flow structures.
The European Space Agency's (ESA) Mars Express mission was launched by a Soyuz/Fregat rocket on 2 June 2003 at 19:45 Central European Summer Time from the Russian space centre at Baikonur, Kazakhstan. The mission supplies Scientists with important new data about the geology, mineralogy and atmosphere of Mars. The search for traces of earlier Mars life, one of the most ambitious goals of the project, provides a large challenge for the scientists.
DLR is making important contributions to Mars Express. The High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) was developed by DLR at the Institut für Planetenforschung (Institute for Planetary Research) in Berlin. The camera is mapping Mars in three dimensions in the highest-ever resolution.
Also, DLR Berlin was key in helping develop the Planetary Fourier Spectrometer (PFS) instrument. Three further experiments - MaRS, MARSIS and ASPERA - are financed by the DLR Space Agency.
|Launch:||2 June 2003, 19.45 CEST|
|Arrival in Mars orbit:||25 December 2003, 04.00 CET|
|Launch site:||Baikonur, Kasachstan|
|Ground stations:||Perth (Australia), Kourou (French Guiana)|
|Operational times:||6.5 - 7 hours per day|
|Mission Control:||European Space Operations Center (ESOC), Darmstadt|
|Nominal mission:||1 Mars year (ca. 2 Earth years ~ 687 days); because of its enormous scientific yield, ESA has extended the Mars Express mission several times, with the most recent extension lasting until 2022.|
|Orbit type:||Ellipse, Final orbit: 250 km (closest approach to Mars) x 11.583 km (furthest point from Mars); Inclination 87 degrees; Orbit period 7.5 hours|
|Launch mass:||1042 kg (427 kg fuel)|
|Scientific payload:||Orbiter 116 kg, Lander 60 kg|
|Dimensions:||Orbiter 1.5 m x 1.8 m x 1.4 m; Solar arm mit 12 m width, Surface area 11.42 sq metres|
|Energy supply:||Orbiter: Solar arm: Si-cells, 660W with 1.5 AE; Energy storage 3 Li-Ion batteries, Overall capacity 64.8 Ah; Power supply 28 V; Maximum performance 450 W|
|Data communication::||X-band (7,1 GHz) and S-band (2,1 GHz). Communication: omnidirectional low-gain antenna (LGA), 4 m; directional high-gain antenna (HGA), 1.8 m; 2 di-pole antennas, both 20 m|
|Propulsion:||8 engines for orbit corrections, each can thrust 10 Newtons; 1 master engine for braking in Mars orbit, thrust 400 Newton; stabilisers|
|HRSC (High-Resolution Stereoscopic Camera)||German-led project: Study of the atmosphere, surface and gravitation|
|MaRS (Mars Radio Science Experiment)||German-led project: Study of the atmosphere, surface and gravitation|
|PFS (Planetary Fourier Spectrometer)||Italian-led project; German participation: Infrared spectrometer for the investigation of the atmosphere|
|ASPERA (Analyser of Space Plasmas and Energetic Atoms)||Swedish-led project: Analysis of the reciprocal effect of the Mars atmosphere with the interplanetary medium|
|MARSIS (Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding)||Italian-led project: Investigation of the Martian soil depth and also the upper atmosphere|
|OMEGA (Observatoire pour la Minéralogie, l’Eau, les Glaces et l’Activité)||French-led project; developed for the Mars-96 mission: Infrared spectrometer for the investigation of the surface composition|
|SPICAM (Spectroscopic Investigation of the Atmosphere of Mars)||developed for the Rosetta mission: Ultraviolet spectrometer for the investigation of the atmosphere|
Elke HeinemannGerman Aerospace Center (DLR)Public Affairs and CommunicationsTelephone: +49 2203 601-2867
Fax: +49 2203 601-3249
Prof.Dr. Ralf JaumannFreie Universität BerlinInstitute of Geological Sciences
Planetary Sciences and Remote SensingTelephone: +49-172-2355864
Ulrich KöhlerPublic relations coordinatorGerman Aerospace Center (DLR)Institute of Planetary ResearchRutherfordstraße 2Contact
Video: Mars - our red neighbour
In addition to giant volcanoes and deep rift valleys, Mars has even more spectacular landscapes. Experience the various features of this planet in fascinating images acquired with DLR's High Resolution Stereo Camera on board the Mars Express spacecraft.
Video: Virtual flight around Gale Crater
Using images acquired by the High Resolution Camera (HRSC) on board ESA's Mars Express spacecraft, DLR researchers have created a 3D virtual flight over the landing site of the Mars Science Laboratory in the 150-kilometre-sized Gale Crater. The landing scenario is also visible at the end.
Video – flight over Neukum Crater on Mars
This video shows a flight over the 102-kilometre wide Neukum Crater in the southern highlands of Mars. It is based on data acquired by the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC), operated by the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) on board the ESA Mars Express spacecraft, which has been orbiting Mars since 2003. The impact crater was named after the German planetary scientist Gerhard Neukum (1944-2014), who led the development of the HRSC. The crater is located in the Noachis Terra region in the densely cratered Martian southern highlands, roughly 800 kilometres from the western rim of the large impact crater Hellas Planitia. Neukum Crater has a diverse geological history, as evidenced by the different geomorphological structures on the crater rim and floor.
Video: 15 Years of Imaging the Red Planet
On 10 January 2004, the first of thousands of detailed images of the Martian surface was captured by the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC), which is a German research instrument on board the European Space Agency’s Mars Express spacecraft, which has been in orbit around Mars since December 2003. During the last 15 years, HRSC has acquired image data during more than 5000 orbits, resulting in a steadily increasing set of spectacular views of the Martian surface, image and digital terrain model mosaics, and movie releases. HRSC coverage of the Martian surface with high resolution (better than 20 meter per pixel) has reached 80 percent.
Animation: Flying over Mars' north polar cap
The video shows the permanent ice cap at the Martian North Pole and the up to 100-kilometre wide and 500-kilometre long valley Chasma Boreale. The north polar cap has a diameter of approximately 1100 kilometres and stands up to three kilometres above the surrounding landscape. It is also known as the summer ice cap and mainly consists of water ice. The HRSC mosaic on which this video was based was compiled from 32 individual image strips (1154, 1177, 1219, 1291, 1394, 1745, 3663, 3681, 3685, 3695, 5483, 5775, 5784, 5796, 5808, 5810, 5818, 5824, 5827, 5838, 5853, 5864, 5867, 5900, 5904, 5963, 6007, 6229, 8042, 8080, 8153, 8160). The image position is located between 0 to 360 degrees east and around 78 to 90 degrees north. The colour mosaic was derived from the nadir channel perpendicular to the surface of Mars and the HRSC colour channels. The mosaic image was combined with topographic information from the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA) experiment on board the NASA Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) spacecraft, resulting in a three-dimensional landscape. The global Mars view is based on the Viking MDIM 2.1 colour mosaic. Staff from the Planetary Sciences and Remote Sensing Division at Freie Universität Berlin used the image data to produce this animated overflight of the north polar cap. The systematic processing of the data was undertaken at the DLR Institute of Planetary Research in Berlin-Adlershof.
Video: Flight over Mawrth Vallis
The video starts at the mouth of Mawrth Vallis and extends into the vast plain of Chryse Planitia. From there, it continues along the winding course of the valley to the source region in the four billion year old, heavily cratered Arabia Terra highlands to the north of the Martian equator. The High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) operated by the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) on board ESA's Mars Express spacecraft has imaged the valley in high resolution. Scientists from the Freie Universität Berlin have created a simulated overflight video along the course of the valley from the digital terrain model calculated at the DLR Institute of Planetary Research.
Video: Flight over Becquerel Crater
The video sequence shown here is based on HRSC image data taken from four overflights above Becquerel Crater, put together to form a mosaic (orbits 3253_1, 5368, 5350 and 5332). The average image resolution is approximately 17 metres per pixel. Planetary scientists at Freie Universität Berlin involved in the Mars Express mission used the HRSC image data to produce the animation. Becquerel Crater is located in the Arabia Terra region, the transitional zone from the Southern Highlands of Mars to its Northern Lowlands, and has a diameter of 167 kilometres. Like many other craters in this region, the interior of Becquerel shows interesting sedimentation phenomena.
Video: Flight over Hydraotes Chaos on Mars
The data used to generate the simulated overflight were acquired with the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC), operated by the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) on board ESA's Mars Express spacecraft. Once again, image strips from orbit 18 - symbolically significant for the HRSC scientists - were edited and used for the animations and images shown here. Over 10 years ago, in January 2004, Mars Express flew over Hydraotes Chaos during orbit 18. This was the third time that the HRSC camera had been switched on, and the images in the image strips, which were over 1000 kilometres long, were so spectacular that they were drawn on for publication of the first images from the successful ESA mission.
Video: Virtual flight over the mouth of the Kasei Valles region
This impressive video takes us on a virtual flight over the mouth of the Kasei Valles region. Earlier in the planet's history, enormous amounts of water flowed through the Martian highlands, sculpting these valleys and leaving its trace in the landscape.
Video: 10 years of Mars Express
The vertical exaggeration factor of the digital terrain model in this video is 2.5. The European Mars Express mission was launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome on 2 June 2003. The High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on board the spacecraft has enabled planetary researchers to view Mars in three dimensions. The Institute of Planetary Research at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) developed and is operating the camera.
Chaos on MarsThese images, acquired by DLR’s HRSC instrument, show a fascinating landscape near the major canyon system of Valles Marineris on Mars. On a high plateau with numerous craters lies a geologically ‘disturbed’ area, the technical term being ‘chaotic terrain’. Such terrain forms when underground ice reservoirs melt and large amounts of water are released from the subsurface, causing the overlying landscape to collapse. What remains are numerous ‘chaotically’ scattered mesas.
Blurred craters on Mars – traces of former glaciation in the southern highlandsThese images, acquired by the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) operated by DLR on board ESA's Mars Express orbiter, show a rare crater triplet, located in the Noachis Terra region in the southern highlands of Mars. HRSC has been mapping the Red Planet in unprecedented resolution, in three dimensions and in colour, since 2004.
Nereidum Montes – a mountain landscape formed by water, ice and windThese images, acquired by the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC), show part of the Nereidum Montes region on Mars. Wind, water, ice and tectonic forces have created a highly diverse landscape. The HRSC, which has been orbiting Mars on board the ESA Mars Express spacecraft since 2003, was developed at the German Aerospace Center (DLR), which also operates the instrument.
DLR’s High Resolution Stereo Camera ‘flies’ over a future Mars landing site – Jezero CraterJezero is not just any impact crater on Mars. An ancient river delta near the western rim of the crater is evidence that it contained a lake more than 3.5 billion years ago. Numerous aqueous minerals prove that liquid water must have been present in it for a very long time – one of the most important prerequisites for life. This is why Jezero Crater is the destination of NASA’s Mars 2020 mission, which is scheduled to launch on 30 July 2020 at 13:50 CEST and which will begin searching for traces of life in the former crater lake in February 2021.
Flight over Korolev Crater on MarsThe video shows a simulated flight over Korolev Crater on Mars. This crater is permanently filled with water ice; it is located in the northern lowlands, near the permanent ice cap at the planet's North Pole. The images used to create the video were acquired by DLR’s HRSC instrument on board ESA’s Mars Express spacecraft.
Uparching, stress and strain on Mars – the horst and graben landscape of Ascuris PlanumThese images from the HRSC camera operated by DLR on board ESA's Mars Express spacecraft show a landscape strongly shaped by tectonic forces in the Tempe Terra region, north of Labeatis Fossae.
Moreux Crater on Mars – dunes and evidence of glacial processesThe images shown here, which were acquired by the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on board ESA’s Mars Express orbiter, reveal the impressive Moreux Crater on Mars. Glaciers have left their mark on the crater rim and floor, and have significantly altered the terrain. This striking view is complemented by a number of distinctive dark dunes.
Nilosyrtis Mensae – erosion on a large scaleThese images, acquired by the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on board ESA's Mars Express spacecraft, show a landscape that has been heavily eroded by water, wind and ice. This is demonstrated by the many deep valleys and flattened crater rims.
Impressive cloud formations over Mars' northern polar ice capThese images, which were acquired by the HRSC instrument, show clouds of dust over our planetary neighbour’s northern polar ice cap. Such observations of active atmospheric processes at the Martian poles are rarely possible, and thus of great interest to scientists.