Press Release

Mars is just around the corner

By SpaceRef Editor
December 10, 2003
Filed under , , ,
Mars is just around the corner
mars express

After a journey of 400 million km, ESA’s Mars Express is now approaching
its final destination. On 19 December, the spacecraft is scheduled to
release the Beagle 2 lander it has been carrying since its launch on 2
June.

At 9:31 CET, ESA’s ground control team at Darmstadt (Germany) will
send the command for the Beagle 2 lander to separate from Mars
Express. A pyrotechnic device will be fired to slowly release a loaded
spring, which will gently push Beagle 2 away from the mother
spacecraft.

Data on the spacecraft’s position and speed will be used by mission
engineers to assess whether the lander was successfully released. In
addition, the onboard Visual Monitoring Camera (VMC) should provide
an image showing the lander slowly moving away. The image is
expected to be available mid-afternoon.

Beagle 2 will then continue its journey towards the surface of Mars,
where it is expected to land on 25 December, early in the morning.
At the same time, the Mars Express orbiter should be manoeuvring
to enter into orbit around Mars.

In view of the complexity of this operation, the Mars Express control
team has been trained to deal with the eventuality that separation
might not be achieved at the first attempt. If that did turn out to be
the case, there is a series of procedures that has already been set
up and tested for completing the manoeuvre successfully within
the subsequent 40 hours.

The "separation" event can be followed live at ESA/ESOC on Friday
19 December from 8:30 to 15:00. A videoconference will link the
control centre at Darmstadt with ESA Headquarters in Paris (F),
and ESA/ESRIN at Frascati (I). Media wishing to attend are asked to
complete the attached reply form and fax it to the Communication
Office at the establishment of their choice. [NOTE: Not attached – A.Y.]

Every day throughout December, you can follow the countdown
to arrival at Mars at: http://mars.esa.int
Here you will find live streaming of key events, news, features,
images, videos and more.

For further information, please contact:

ESA Media Relations Service

Tel: +33(0)1.53.69.7155

Fax: +33(0)1.53.69.7690

PRESS PROGRAMME at ESA/ESOC

Mars is just around the corner

Opening of doors: 7:00

Possibility of filming in the Main Control Room until 8:00

8:30 – 9:00 Local programme at ESA/ESOC

9:00 – 9:35 ESA TV programme (9:31 CET Beagle-2 ejection)

9:35 – 10:15 Local programme at ESA/ESOC

10:15 – 11:30 Coffee break and interview opportunities

11:30 – 11:50 ESA TV programme (11:31 CET Beagle-2 ejection results)

12:00 – 12:30 Questions & Answers

The picture of Beagle-2 being released will only be available in the afternoon around 15:00 CET.

For other ESA establishments, opening hours are specified on the reply form.

Related links

* Europe goes to Mars

http://www.esa.int/SPECIALS/Mars_Express/index.html

* Mars Express mission facts

http://www.esa.int/SPECIALS/Mars_Express/SEMFU55V9ED_0.html

* Beagle 2 lander homepage

http://www.beagle2.com

* Press programme and reply form

http://www.esa.int/export/esaCP/Pr_81_2003_p_EN.html

Related articles

* Planet Mars from 5.5 million kilometres

http://www.esa.int/esaCP/SEMN3GUZJND_index_0.html

* ‘Europe lands on Mars’ — Media event at ESA/ESOC

http://www.esa.int/esaCP/SEMBUGXLDMD_index_0.html

* Crucial moments on the way to Mars

http://www.esa.int/SPECIALS/Mars_Express/SEM5Z0UZJND_0.html

* Are you ready for Mars?

http://www.esa.int/esaCP/SEMTERWLDMD_index_0.html

IMAEG CAPTIONS:

[Image 1:
http://www.esa.int/export/esaCP/SEM100VZJND_index_1.html]
The Mars Express spacecraft in orbit around Mars.

Credits: ESA 2001, Illustration by Medialab

[Image 2:
http://www.esa.int/export/esaCP/SEM100VZJND_index_1.html#subhead1]
Beagle 2 will land on Isidis Planitia, a large, flat sedimentary basin
straddling the relatively young northern plains and ancient southern highlands,
where traces of life could have been preserved.

Credits: Illustration by Medialab, ESA 2001

SpaceRef staff editor.