Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

’Europe lands on Mars’ - Media event at ESA/ESOC

25.11.2003


ESA’s Mars Express probe is scheduled to arrive at Mars at Christmas : the Beagle 2 lander is expected to touch down on the surface of the Red Planet during the night of 24 to 25 December.



Launched on 2 June 2003 from Baikonur (Kazakhstan) on board a Russian Soyuz operated by Starsem, the European probe - built for ESA by a European team of industrial companies led by Astrium - carries seven scientific instruments that will perform a series of remote sensing experiments designed to shed new light on the Martian atmosphere, the planet’s structure and its geology. In particular, the British-made Beagle 2 lander will contribute to the search for traces of life on Mars through exobiology experiments and geochemistry research.

On board Mars Express tests have been run to check that the instruments are functioning correctly. Mars Express has successfully come through its first power test on the whole spacecraft after the gigantic solar flare on 28 October. Since 17 November the onboard software has been ’frozen’ after several updates and the spacecraft is now quietly proceeding to its destination.


Before even entering into Martian orbit to perform its mission, Mars Express has to face another challenge: safely delivering the Beagle 2 lander to its destination. This task, starting on 19 December, will not be without risk.

First of all, to deliver the lander where planned, Mars Express has been put on a collision course with Mars, since Beagle 2 does not have a propulsion system of its own and must therefore be ’carried’ precisely to its destination. This means that after separation, Mars Express has to veer away quickly to avoid crashing onto the planet.

During the cruise Beagle 2 will take its power from the mother spacecraft, Mars Express. After separation and until its solar arrays are fully deployed on the surface, Beagle 2 must rely on its own battery, which cannot last beyond 6 days. So, like a caring parent, Mars Express must release Beagle 2 at the last possible moment to ensure that the lander has enough power for the rest of its journey to the surface.

Only then can Mars Express change its orientation and rapidly fire the thrusters to get away from the collision course and enter into orbit around Mars. This will be the first time that an orbiter delivers a lander without its own propulsion onto a planet and attempts orbit insertion immediately afterwards.

Since all these manoeuvres are time-critical and allow little margin of error, the ground control team has had to simulate all possible scenarios (including glitches and problems, on board and on the ground) to make sure that nothing is left to chance.

The team has been training since September in a very realistic setting, using the same computers and equipment that will be employed during this mission phase. Although the real spacecraft cannot be directly involved, its behaviour is simulated via a sophisticated computer programme, using the actual flight software. These rehearsals, each lasting a day or more, cover all possible situations from the failure of an onboard instrument to the outbreak of a fire in the control room. One of these simulations will take place during the press conference on 3 December.

ESA’s ground control team at ESOC, on the other hand, are having a very busy time. They are actively rehearsing responses to any situation that might arise when Mars Express releases Beagle 2 and enters into orbit around Mars. "The Mars Express mission is pushing the operations staff to extremes. Over the years, the experience acquired with experimental missions has provided a solid basis on which to prepare for the unexpected. The satellite controllers will rise to this new challenge", Gaele Winters, ESA Director of Technical and Operational Support, said.

Four media events have been scheduled relating to the arrival of Mars Express at its destination (see our press release N° 74-2003). The next event is scheduled on Wednesday 3 December at ESA/ESOC, Darmstadt, Germany and will include the presentation of the first HRSC image and further information about scientific expectations of the mission. All Principal Investigators will present their instruments and early results of testing and operations (see programme attached).

A videoconference of this ESA media briefing will be organised at ESA/Headquarters, Paris (F), ESA/ESTEC, Noordwijk (NL) and ESA/ESRIN, Frascati (I). Media wishing to attend are asked to complete the attached reply form and fax it to the Communication Office at the establishment of their choice.

Franco Bonacina | ESA
Further information:
http://www.esa.int/export/SPECIALS/Mars_Express/SEMBUGXLDMD_0.html

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Observing and controlling ultrafast processes with attosecond resolution
20.02.2018 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Unconventional superconductor may be used to create quantum computers of the future
19.02.2018 | Chalmers University of Technology

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

Im Focus: Hybrid optics bring color imaging using ultrathin metalenses into focus

For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.

But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...

Im Focus: Stem cell divisions in the adult brain seen for the first time

Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.

The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...

Im Focus: Interference as a new method for cooling quantum devices

Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters

Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Rare find from the deep sea

20.02.2018 | Life Sciences

In living color: Brightly-colored bacteria could be used to 'grow' paints and coatings

20.02.2018 | Life Sciences

Observing and controlling ultrafast processes with attosecond resolution

20.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>