ASI - Agenzia Spaziale Italiana - Mission and Projects ASI - Agenzia Spaziale Italiana - Mission and Projects

MARS EXPRESS

Main Theme Exploration of Mars
Mission Responsibility ESA
Launch Date 2003
End of mission 2012
Current phase E
Website http://www.esa.int/esaMI/Mars_Express/index.html

 

Description
Mars Express is a "Flexible Mission" within ESA's New Horizon scientific programme. It was launched on 2 June 2003 with the Soyuz/Fregat launcher and took approximately six months to reach Mars. It was placed into Mars' orbit on 25 December 2003.

 

Afterwards, another of 5 months was foreseen for commissioning before the scheduled operational phase, except for the MARSIS instrument because of problems related to the safety of the satellite during the antenna's aperture.  These were resolved on 5 July 2005, when this instrument also began operation.

 

Scientific Objectives
For size, internal activity level, age of surface structures and atmospheric density, Mars is a body that lies in an intermediate position between the two great terrestrial planets (Venus and the Earth) and the small bodies, Mercury, the Moon, and the asteroids. The exploration of Mars has therefore been essential also for a better understanding of the Earth within the framework of compared planetology. The mission objectives are the mineral characterization at the medium scale of the surface, the study of the atmosphere and atmospheric circulation, the study of the interaction between the atmosphere and the solar wind and the measurement of the rate of ablation, the high-resolution photographic mapping  and also in stereo of the surface and the study of the subsurface structures in search of water or ice.

 

Italian Contribution
Among the instruments embarked the spacecraft, ASI has supplied two instruments with a national PI:  the Fourier PFS spectrometer for studying the atmosphere and the subsurface radar MARSIS (Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding), realized with the contribution of NASA/JPL. Moreover, the visible part makes up the Italian contribution, VNIR, the spectrometer OMEGA (with a French PI) and the electronics of the imaging instrument of energetic neutral atoms ASPERA. One of the interdisciplinary scientists involved in the IDS is Italian and there are also Italian scientists on the team of the high-resolution camera stereo, HRSC.

 

International Agreements
An MoU with NASA is in progress for Marsis and the PFS