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U.S. Participation in Europe's Mars Express
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Artists drawing of Mars Express
Artists drawing of Mars Express
On June 2, 2003, a small spacecraft backed by a multinational team left Earth for Mars as part of Earth's search for water and possible evidence of past or present life on the red planet. Mars Express, which features an orbiter and a lander, is a European Space Agency mission designed as a low-cost, fast-track effort. Countries involved include France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Sweden, Spain, Japan, and the United States.

Mars Express launched on a Russian Soyuz/Fregat launch vehicle from Baikonur, Kazakstan on June 2, 2003. Cruise lasted approximately seven months, with Mars Orbit Insertion and the Beagle 2 landing scheduled for December 25, 2003 UT (December 24 in the U.S.). The seven instruments on the orbiter are currently making observations at Mars.

U.S. Participation In Mars Express

United States participation includes:

Instruments and Science

  • joint development between NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Italian Space Agency of the radar instrument called MARSIS, which probes the subsurface of Mars to detect layers of rock, ice and possibly water to a depth of about 5 kilometers (3 miles)
    • JPL is responsible for the radio frequency system (the integrated receiver, transmitter and antenna subsystems)
    • JPL scientist Jeffrey Plaut is co-principal investigator
  • funding through NASA's Discovery Program for the design, construction, and delivery of electron and ion spectrometers for the ASPERA instrument, which will studies how the solar wind erodes the martian atmosphere
  • NASA funding for U.S. science participation in Mars Express's science instrument teams
  • JPL's Navigation and Information Facility (NAIF) expertise in the development of software that supports delivery of Mars Express data (e.g., the spacecraft's position and other information that aid in the interpretation of scientific data) to the Planetary Data System, an online repository of mission data available to scientists worldwide
  • JPL's Multimission Image Processing Laboratory (MIPL) development of software that converts data from the HRSC camera into a format that is compatible with existing image processing software, thereby enabling U.S. Co-Investigators on the science teams to process images further, and into a format compatible with the Planetary Data System

Navigation and Telecommunications

  • NASA/JPL studies and design tests that allow communications interoperability between NASA and ESA orbiters and landers at Mars
  • NASA provision of Deep Space Network tracking support
  • NASA provision of navigation support through workshops and technical consultation
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