Feeds

Mars Express circles planet 5,000 times

Seen lots, done lots, plenty still to do

Boost IT visibility and business value

Mars Express has completed 5,000 orbits of the red planet, just short of four years after it arrived on Christmas day, 2003.

The craft has sent back marvellously detailed pictures of Mars' surface, adding to our knowledge of the planet's geological history and evolution.

Clay deposits on Mars

Clay deposits on Mars.

Most significantly, thanks to OMEGA (the mineralogical mapping spectrometer) it has found clays (see picture, mapping their distribution) - hydrated minerals that must have formed quite early in the planet's history, when Mars was still a wet place. The same instrument has also revealed great swathes of frozen water and carbon dioxide at the poles.

The craft's High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) has spotted dustings of ice over the poles, mapped the slopes of the planet's giant volcanoes, and cast its gaze along the cracks, craters, and canyons that cover the surface.

For instance, the picture below shows the snow covered plains broken by towering cliffs some 2km high. Dark material in the caldera-like structures and dune fields could be volcanic ash, according to mission managers at ESA.

Snow dusted Martian pole

Snow dusted Martian pole.

From its vantage point some 13,000 kilometres (give or take a bit) above the planet's surface, Mars Express has stripped back the top layers of the planet to confirm that if the ice at the poles melted, it would swamp the planet and create an ocean 11m deep.

It has also studied the atmosphere, thin and tenuous as it is, to build up a vertical profile of its composition and temperature, capture images of the highest clouds ever seen, and revealed the glow of aurorae at mid-latitudes. It has also caught the solar wind in the act of slowly ablating the atmosphere down to an altitude of 270km.

The mission has already been extended to 2009, and if everything still works, could be extended further into the next decade. ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

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 ...'
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
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
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
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?
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
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.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
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.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.