Feeds

Mars Express circles planet 5,000 times

Seen lots, done lots, plenty still to do

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

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. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
PORTAL TO ELSEWHERE scried in small galaxy far, far away
Supermassive black hole dominates titchy star formation
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Edge Research Lab to tackle chilly LOHAN's final test flight
Our US allies to probe potential Vulture 2 servo freeze
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
Archaeologists and robots on hunt for more Antikythera pieces
How much of the world's oldest computer can they find?
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.