Feeds

MARSIS is ready to go digging on Mars

Hunting for H2O

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Build a business case: developing custom apps

The Mars Express MARSIS experiment is at last fully deployed, seven weeks after the European Space Agency gave the go ahead for the radar booms to be unfurled. ESA announced yesterday that the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding experiment has undergone its first checkout, and is ready to start scanning the red planet.

Artists impression of the fully deployed MARSIS satellite Credit: ESA

The MARSIS experiment is the last science package on board the Mars Express Orbiter, and will provide scientists with their first glimpse of what is going on beneath the surface of Mars. It consists of three antennae: two dipole booms, each 20 metres long, and one seven-metre mono pole boom, arranged at 90 degrees to the first two.

Unfurling the booms was a delicate and uncertain process. A hinge on the first boom got stuck while it was being unfolded back in early May, and after some deliberation mission controllers managed to get it to lock properly by turning the stuck portion to face the sun. The heat from Sol was enough to expand the section so that it locked into place.

The second boom was successfully extended by mid June, and the third deployment on 17 June went very smoothly, ESA said.

Professor David Southwood, ESA's science programme director, acknowledged the importance of the international collaboration between the European space agencies and NASA in making the Mars Express mission a success. "Overcoming all the technical challenges to operate an instrument like MARSIS, which had never flown in space before this mission, has been made possible thanks to magnificent cooperation between experts on both sides of the Atlantic," he said.

MARSIS will send out a coded stream of radio waves towards Mars at night, and scientists will analyse the echoes to make deductions about the surface and subsurface structure, as well as the structure of the upper atmosphere. In particular, they will search for water that might lie hidden below the surface. ®

Related stories

Heat treatment straightens out MARSIS boom
MARSIS experiment hit by delay
Mars Express starts unfurling radar booms
Frozen sea on Mars hints at alien life

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Flamewars in SPAAACE: cooler fires hint at energy efficiency
Experiment aboard ISS shows we should all chill out for cleaner engines
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
NASA Mars rover FINALLY equals 1973 Soviet benchmark
Yet to surpass ancient Greek one, however
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Backing up Big Data
Solving backup challenges and “protect everything from everywhere,” as we move into the era of big data management and the adoption of BYOD.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.