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

Mars Express Orbiter

The European Space Agency (ESA) launched a mission to Mars called "Mars Express" in June of 2003. The Mars Express spacecraft has two parts: an orbiter that will circle the Red Planet for at least one Martian year (687 Earth days), and a lander named "Beagle 2" which is scheduled to touch down on the surface of the Mars on December 25, 2003.

Scientists are searching for water on Mars because they think that if they find water that would be the best place to look for life. Mars Express has a radar called MARSIS that can look through rock. Scientists hope to find water underground on Mars using the Mars Express' radar.

Mars Express will also take pictures of the surface of Mars using its color cameras. The pictures it makes will be 3D, so they will help us see the shape of hills, canyons, and craters on Mars. The cameras will be able to spot objects as small as two meters (six feet) across. The spacecraft has another, special camera that will map the minerals found on the surface of the planet.

Mars Express also has instruments to study the Martian atmosphere. The instruments will help us learn what kinds of gases are in the atmosphere. They will also help us learn how the atmosphere changes over time. Mars has seasons, like Earth, and the weather on Mars changes from season to season.

Last modified December 24, 2003 by Randy Russell.

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