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Europ's mars Express orbiter news!

Posted by: Matthew17 - Sun Dec 21, 2003 6:39 am
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Europ's mars Express orbiter news! 
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Spaceflight Trainee
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Post Europ's mars Express orbiter news!   Posted on: Sun Dec 21, 2003 6:39 am
PARIS -- Europe's Mars Express orbiter successfully ejected its Beagle-2 surface probe today, clearing the way for a Christmas Day landing of Beagle-2 and the insertion of Mars Express into orbit around the red planet.

A breakdown of how Mars Express fits together. The Beagle 2 can be seen sitting on the lid of the craft and the main communications antenna is visible in the lower left. The orbiter carries seven instruments including MARSIS, a low-frequency radar designed to probe the subsurface of Mars for water. Click to enlarge.

An artist's conception of Mars Express at the red planet. The mission is among the fastest and cheapest by the European Space Agency (ESA). It will search for water and evidence of life on Mars. Click to enlarge.

An illustration of Beagle 2 with its Position Adjustable Workbench (PAW) extended after landing. The lander will search for evidence of life on Mars as part of the European Space Agency's (ESA) Mars Express. Click to enlarge.

Mars Express Mission Manager Michael McKay confirmed separation shortly after noon Central European Time (6 a.m. ET) after having received telemetry data from Mars Express via a satellite tracking station in Australia. McKay's announcement ended a tense two and one-half hours following the automated command for Mars Express to let go of Beagle-2.

Because of the time it took for the satellite to repoint its antenna toward Earth, ground teams had no idea whether the initial Beagle-2 release command had been executed.

"The mother and baby are both doing well," a relieved David Southwood, director of science at the European Space Agency (ESA), said after the lander's separation was confirmed. "It's been a few tense hours."

If Beagle-2 had not separated, the Mars Express satellite would have faced increased difficulties in reaching its intended orbit, and its mission would have been limited by having to carry the 69-kilogram lander.

Mars Express will now begin a series of maneuvers that should culminate in a Dec. 25 orbital injection around Mars, another mission-critical sequence that will take the satellite off its current collision course with Mars and permit it to prepare for its mission of using optical and radar imagers to examine the Mars surface and subsurface.

Beagle-2 will continue on its collision course, with a planned Dec. 25 entry into Mars' atmosphere and a parachute- and air-bag-softened landing that same day.

The lander will then have only a few hours to deploy its solar arrays to gather enough power for its batteries to survive the frigid Martian night, where temperatures can reach minus 40 degrees Centigrade. A first signal that it has survived the landing may be acquired by NASA's Odyssey satellite in orbit around Mars.

The all-important signal that Beagle-2 has survived the night will be sent to Mars Express just before 9 a.m. Central European Time (3 a.m. ET) on Dec. 25.

I hope man gets back to the moon, in my life time!

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Space Walker
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Post    Posted on: Sun Dec 21, 2003 2:22 pm
It will be a great Christmas present!

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