Mars Express, ESA’s first mission to Mars, will reach its final orbit on 28 January. It has already been producing stunning results since its first instrument was switched on, on 5 January. The significance of the first data was emphasised by the scientists at a European press conference today at ESA’s Space Operations Centre, Darmstadt, Germany.
OMEGA observed the southern polar cap of Mars on 18 January 2004, as seen on all three bands. The right one represents the visible image, the middle one the CO2 (carbon dioxide) ice and the left one the H2O (water) ice.
"I did not expect to be able to gather together - just one month after the Mars Orbit Insertion of 25 December – so many happy scientists eager to present their first results", said Professor David Southwood, ESA Director of Science. One of the main targets of the Mars Express mission is to discover the presence of water in one of its chemical states. Through the initial mapping of the South polar cap on 18 January, OMEGA, the combined camera and infrared spectrometer, has already revealed the presence of water ice and carbon dioxide ice.
This information was confirmed by the PFS, a new high-resolution spectrometer of unprecedented accuracy. The first PFS data also show that the carbon oxide distribution is different in the northern and southern hemispheres of Mars.
Franco Bonacina | ESA
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