Mars Express Mission Overview
Mars Express was successfully launched to the planet Mars on 2 June 2003 at 17:45 UT from Baikonur, Khazakstan. The Soyuz-Fregat launcher injected the Mars Express total mass of 1223 kg into Mars transfer orbit. The mission consists of a 3-axis stabilized orbiter with a fixed high-gain antenna and body-mounted instruments dedicated to the study of the interior, subsurface, surface, atmosphere, and environment of the planet. See the Mars Express Portal for a detailed scientific overview. The Figure below (from EADS-Astrium) illustrates the main mission characteristics.
After about five months in interplanetary cruise, the Mars Express orbiter was successfully inserted into polar elliptical orbit around Mars on 25 December 2003 and reached its mapping orbit on 28 January 2004. The nominal mission lifetime was one Martian year or 687 days following Mars Orbit Insertion.
The Mars Express spacecraft continues to show excellent overall operational performance, which allows for successful implementation of the mission's scientific programme. The routine science phase and relevant planning of the payload scientific activities is progressing nominally. Mars Express is providing unprecedented global coverage of the planet, with investigations such as high-resolution imaging and mineralogical mapping of the surface, precise determination of the atmospheric circulation and composition, and study of the interaction of the atmosphere with the interplanetary medium. Deployment of the three MARSIS antenna booms was successfully completed in Spring 2005, and quickly followed by the first radar sounding measurements of the ionosphere and subsurface structure of the planet.
The nominal science phase has first been extended for another Martian year (from 1st of December 2005 to 31 October 2007) in order to (i) fulfill global coverage mapping objectives, (ii) ensure that the MARSIS radar experiment reaches its nighttime subsurface measurement goals, and (iii) complement earlier observations (e.g., for seasonal or high-resolution coverage purposes) and allow data relay communications for other spacecraft up to near-end 2007. It has then been extended until December 2009, provided that the spacecraft resources permit it. The successful collection of scientific data continues as the spacecraft and its payload will soon conclude the second extended mission. The mission has now been extended until End 2012.