MARSIS, the sounding radar on board ESA’s Mars Express spacecraft, is collecting the first data about the surface and the ionosphere of Mars.
The radar started its science operations on 4 July 2005, after the first phase of its commissioning was concluded on the same day. Due to the late deployment of MARSIS, it was decided to split the commissioning, originally planned to last four weeks, into two phases, one of which has just ended and the second one to be started by December this year.
This has given the instrument the chance to start scientific observations earlier than initially foreseen, while still in the Martian night. This is the environmental condition favourable to subsurface sounding, because the ionosphere is more ‘energised’ during the daytime and disturbs the radio signals used for subsurface observations.
Franco Bonacina | alfa
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