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Mars Express Status Report - November 2006

Status Report From: ESA Mars Express Mission
Posted: Friday, November 17, 2006

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Mission Status

Early June saw the celebration of 3 years in space for Mars-Express. Most of the summer has been spent on preparing for, and actually entering the power wise very challenging eclipse/aphelion season. The specially designed Survival Mode (SUMO) was tested and so far successfully used to safely sail through the longest eclipses.

Operations and archiving

With the spacecraft being configured for the low-power/aphelion season, payload operations are suspended (except for one possible exception around end-September and radio science during solar conjunction) for some 10 weeks.

Early next year (Feb-Mar 2007) the default Mars Express ground station (New Norcia) will be used by Rosetta for the preparation and execution of its Mars flyby. With Cebreros being used by Venus Express and DSN availability uncertain, this will probably mean two months with lower science return for Mars Express. A Mars-Express science working team and science operations working group meeting was held at ESOC 28-30 June 2006.

One of the major topics discussed at the science working team meeting was the evolution of the Mars Express orbit, which is rapidly moving into a situation with pericenter passages predominantly happening in the dark. This could be changed to support a more balanced distribution of science possibilities over all instruments. A further meeting discussing the topic was held 31 August 2006 at ESOC.

Science highlights

The latest major Mars Express discovery was made by the SPICAM team concerning the existence of very high-altitude C02 clouds in the Martian atmosphere (see related links for the web release). A spectacular set of images covering the Cydonia region, and including the famous face on Mars and its current appearance following years of geological processing, is being prepared for an immediate press release.

Editor's note

This report was prepared on 13 October 2006, and presented to SPC on 7-8 November 2006. The Cydonia region web release is linked from the right hand side.

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