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This is a picture by an artist of the Mars Express spacecraft in orbit around Mars.
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Image courtesy the European Space Agency (ESA)

Mars Express Orbiter

The European Space Agency (ESA) launched a mission to Mars in June of 2003. The mission is called "Mars Express". The Mars Express spacecraft has two parts. One part will orbit Mars for at least one Martian year. A year on Mars lasts 687 Earth days, so it is longer than a year on Earth. The second part of Mars Express is a lander named "Beagle 2".

Mars Express is looking for life on Mars. Scientists don't know whether Mars has life or not. If Mars does have life, it is probably some kind of microbe that lives in water. So scientists are looking for water on Mars. Mars doesn't have any lakes, rivers, or seas. But Mars might have water underground. Mars Express has a radar that can look through rocks. Scientists hope to find water underground with that radar.

Mars Express has cameras that will take many pictures of Mars. Scientists will make a map of the planet from those pictures. Another type of camera on Mars Express will take pictures that show different types of minerals on the surface of Mars.

The spacecraft will also study the atmosphere of Mars. Mars has different seasons, like Earth. Scientists want to see how Mars' atmosphere changes from season to season.

Last modified December 24, 2003 by Randy Russell.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA