This is a picture by an artist of the Mars Express spacecraft flying towards Mars.
Click on image for full size
Image courtesy European Space Agency (ESA) - Illustration by Medialab
Overview of the Mars Express Mission
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
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 that can look through rock. Scientists hope to find water
underground on Mars using the Mars Express' radar. The spacecraft will also take pictures
of Mars and study the Martian atmosphere.
The Beagle 2 lander will try to find life on the surface of Mars. It has
a robotic arm that will scoop up soil. It will find out what kinds of chemicals
are in the soil. Some types of chemicals are mostly made by living creatures.
If Beagle 2 finds those types of chemicals it will have strong evidence
that it might have found life. Beagle 2 will land in a flat area called "Isidis
Planitia" that is inside
an old crater. There may have been a lake inside the crater many years
Beagle 2 is named after a famous ship, the H.M.S. Beagle. A scientist
named Charles Darwin sailed
on the H.M.S. Beagle in the mid-1800s. Darwin was one of the first scientists
to explain how evolution works. The theory of evolution is very important
in the science of biology. If scientists find life on Mars with the Beagle
2, that would be a very important discovery for the science of biology,
too. That is why the Mars Express mission planners decided to name their
lander after Darwin's ship.
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