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Mars Express Prepared for Conjuntion Season

Status Report From: ESA Mars Express Mission
Posted: Tuesday, October 10, 2006

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Overall Mission, Payload, and Science Planning Status

Since the last status report, the Mars Express spacecraft, subsystems and payload continued recording healthy conditions, with the planned Medium Term Plans MTP25 to MTP30 successfully executed.

The spacecraft recently went successfully through a period characterised by significant power limitations (eclipses longer than 70 minutes combined with near-aphelion conditions). As a consequence, science operations have not been conducted since 21 August. In the last week of September, the spacecraft was reconfigured to the nominal configuration and prepared for the conjunction season.

Two high-priority observations were planned in MTP31 towards the end of September/early October timeframe: an observation by HRSC and OMEGA of the Phoenix B landing site, and a coordinated observation between OMEGA and CRISM (the hyperspectral imager onboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter). Both observations can only be done with good illumination conditions.

During the conjunction season in October, the only possible scientific observations will be performed by Radio Science for solar corona measurements. After the conjunction season, normal science operations for all experiments are to resume on 6 November. Planning for MTP32 and MTP33 are proceeding with available orbit and ground station information.

Preparations for a number of coordinated scientific observations (plasma and spectrometry measurements) between Mars Express and Rosetta instruments during the Rosetta Mars swingby of February 2007 are ongoing.

Discussions have also started within the Mars Express Science Working Team (SWT) regarding the future evolution of the Mars Express orbit.

The last major Mars Express discovery was made by the SPICAM team concerning the existence of very high-altitude CO2 clouds in the Martian atmosphere (see related link to the web release on the right-hand side).

The 21st Mars Express SWT meeting was held on 28-29 June 2006 at ESOC. The next SWT meeting is foreseen for early December 2006 at ESTEC.

A dedicated Mars Express session will take place at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting in December 2006. Similar dedicated sessions are planned for the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC) and the European Geosciences Union (EGU) in 2007.

Science Data Archiving

The Planetary Science Archive (PSA) is running nominally and is used regularly by the public to retrieve Mars Express data.

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