ESAs 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 planets 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.
Franco Bonacina | ESA
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