Mars Express mission

Mars Ex­press - In­sight in­to the his­to­ry of the Mar­tian cli­mate

Mars Express in orbit around Mars
Mars Ex­press in or­bit around Mars
Image 1/3, Credit: ESA/Medialab

Mars Express in orbit around Mars

Artist's im­pres­sion of the Eu­ro­pean space­craft Mars Ex­press in or­bit around Mars (2003).

The striking landscape of Hydraotes Chaos on Mars
The strik­ing land­scape of Hy­draotes Chaos on Mars
Image 2/3, Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO.

The striking landscape of Hydraotes Chaos on Mars

The 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 fans
Image 3/3, Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO.

Landslides and delta-shaped alluvial fans

In 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.



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

Instruments Orbiter

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

More information
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  • Michael Müller
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)
    Cor­po­rate Com­mu­ni­ca­tions
    Telephone: +49 2203 601-3717
    Fax: +49 2203 601-3249


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