Artists impression of water under the Martian surface (ESA 2001. Illustration by Medialab)
Instruments on the Mars Express orbiter can observe selected areas of the Martian surface (ESA 2001. Illustration by Medialab)
"The presence of such a large amount of water ice under Mars`s surface is very surprising. Especially so close to the surface!" says Gerhard Schwehm, Head of the Planetary Missions Division at ESA. The team working on ESA`s Mars Express, the next mission to the Red Planet, is thrilled by NASA`s Mars Odyssey detection of hydrogen-rich layers under the Martian surface. This hydrogen indicates the presence of water ice in the top surface of the Martian soil in a large region surrounding the planet`s south pole. ESA`s Mars Express, ready for launching in June 2003, has the tools for searching much deeper below the surface, down to a few kilometres.
"Mars Express will give a more global picture of where the water is and how deep," says Patrick Martin, ESA deputy project scientist for the Mars Express mission.
The radar sounder on board Mars Express, MARSIS, will map the subsurface structure from a depth of about a hundred metres to as much as a few kilometres. This is in contrast with the Mars Odyssey, which can sense surface compositions to a depth of only one metre.
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