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 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". Beagle 2 is supposed to land on Mars
on Christmas day in 2003.
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.
The Beagle 2 lander will look for life on the surface of Mars. It has
a robot arm that will scoop up dirt. It will check the dirt for chemicals
that might have been made by living things. 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 ago.
Beagle 2 is named after a famous ship called the H.M.S. Beagle. A scientist
named Charles Darwin sailed
on the H.M.S. Beagle about 170 years ago. Darwin helped invent a theory
called evolution that explains a lot about how life works. Scientists hope
to find out a lot about life if they discover life on Mars. So the Mars
Express team named their lander Beagle 2 in honor of Darwin's ship.
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