Mars Express Has The Science Payloads To Find Water Ice
"The presence of such a large amount of water ice under Mars's surface is very surprising. Especially so close to the surface!" says Gerhard Schwehm, Head of the Planetary Missions Division at ESA. The team working on ESA's Mars Express, the next mission to the Red Planet, is thrilled by NASA's Mars Odyssey detection of hydrogen-rich layers under the Martian surface.
This hydrogen indicates the presence of water ice in the top surface of the Martian soil in a large region surrounding the planet's south pole. ESA's Mars Express, ready for launching in June 2003, has the tools for searching much deeper below the surface, down to a few kilometres.
"Mars Express will give a more global picture of where the water is and how deep," says Patrick Martin, ESA deputy project scientist for the Mars Express mission.
The radar sounder on board Mars Express, MARSIS, will map the subsurface structure from a depth of about a hundred metres to as much as a few kilometres. This is in contrast with the Mars Odyssey, which can sense surface compositions to a depth of only one metre.
The cameras on Mars Express will map the minerals at a very high resolution and report how they are distributed on the Martian surface. This kind of data is crucial to understand the distribution of subsurface water.
The other four instruments on board Mars Express (seven in total) will observe the atmosphere and reveal processes by which water vapour and other atmospheric gases could have escaped into space.
Knowing about the water distribution on and under the surface of Mars is essential, since water is needed for the appearance of life. Also, water distribution will help understand the geological history of the planet, and ultimately provide new clues about formation of our Solar System and evolution of Earth. Moreover, the presence of water puts mankind a step closer to the human exploration of the Red Planet. In its exciting Aurora programme, ESA is considering systems that could be used in future extraterrestrial human colonies or stations.
Mars Express will also deploy the Beagle 2 lander that will parachute down to the Martian surface, probably close to the equator, and is especially equipped to look for signatures of life.
It will do so both on and below the surface, since Mars's harsh atmosphere would almost certainly have destroyed any evidence for life on the surface. Beagle 2 will use a 'mole' to retrieve samples of soil to a depth of 1.5 metres, and will become the first lander to look directly for evidences of life on the Red Planet since NASA's Viking in 1976.
Europe to identify underground water on Mars
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Europe Heads for Mars
Moffett Field - Nov 20, 2001
The H.M.S. Beagle set sail from Britain late in the stormy December of 1831, bearing the young naturalist Charles Darwin on a quest to understand the natural history of the farthest lands humans could reach. One hundred and seventy two years later, the UK's Open and Leicester Universities, together with Astrium, an Aerospace Industry partner, aims to reach a bit farther: to Mars. Beagle 2, a compact, lightweight lander carried on the European Space Agency's (ESA) Mars Express, will search for signs of life on the red planet.
Europe Hopes For Express Answer In Search For Water On Mars
Paris - Aug 27, 2001
Geologists poring over the latest images from Mars keep on turning up new and tantalising evidence that water once flowed freely on the planet's surface -- and may still flow from time to time. If their interpretation is right, underground aquifers or ice layers should be commonplace on the planet. Yet no spacecraft flown so far has been capable of identifying them.