About Mars Express
The scientific objectives
Mars exploration is crucial for a better understanding of the Earth from the perspective of comparative planetology.
The scientific objectives of the Mars Express Payload are to obtain global high-resolution photo-geology (10 m resolution), mineralogical mapping (100 m resolution) and mapping of the atmospheric composition, study the subsurface structure, the global atmospheric circulation, and the interaction between the atmosphere and the subsurface and the interplanetary medium.
The scientific instruments
The spacecraft originally carried seven scientific instruments, the lander Beagle 2, a lander relay and a Visual Monitoring Camera, all designed to contribute to solving the mystery of Mars’ missing water.
All of the instruments take measurements of the surface, atmosphere and interplanetary media, from the main spacecraft in polar orbit, which will allow it to gradually cover the whole planet:
• OMEGA Visible and Infrared Mineralogical Mapping Spectrometer (Observatoire pour la Minéralogie, l’Eau, les Glaces et l’Activité) – France – Determines mineral composition of the surface up to 100 m resolution.
IAPS provided the visible channel of the instrument and contributed co-investigators to the scientific activities of the experiment.
• SPICAM Ultraviolet and Infrared Atmospheric Spectrometer – France – Assesses elemental composition of the atmosphere.
• MARSIS Sub-Surface Sounding Radar Altimeter – Italy – A radar used to assess composition of sub-surface aimed at search for frozen water (up to 2, 3 Km). It incorporates the two 20 m antennas.
IAPS manages the instrument, from operations planning to data processing and archiving, contributing the deputy principal investigator and co-investigators to the scientific activities of the experiment.
• PFS Planetary Fourier Spectrometer – Italy – Makes observations of atmospheric temperature and pressure (observations suspended in September 2005).
IAPS has built the instrument and manages it, from operations panning to data processing and archiving; contributing the principal investigator and co-investigators to the scientific activities of the experiment.
• ASPERA Analyzer of Space Plasmas and Energetic Atoms – Sweden – Investigates interactions between upper atmosphere and solar wind.
IAPS provided the Energetic Neutral Atoms (ENA) sensor of the instrument and contributes co-investigators to the scientific activities of the experiment.
• HRSC High Resolution Stereo Camera – Germany – Produces color images with up to 2 m resolution.
• MELACOM Mars Express Lander Communications – UK – Allows Mars Express to act as a communication relay for landers on the Martian surface.
• MaRS Mars Radio Science Experiment – Germany – It uses radio waves to study both the surface and atmosphere, measuring local variations in gravity over the surface of Mars and providing pressure and temperature profiles of the atmosphere.