ESA Mars Express probe is scheduled to arrive at Mars at Christmas : the
Beagle 2 lander is expected to touch down on the surface of the Red Planet
during the night of 24 to 25 December.

Launched on 2 June 2003 from Baikonur (Kazakhstan) on board a Russian
Soyuz operated by Starsem, the European probe – built for ESA by a
European team of industrial companies led by Astrium – carries seven
scientific instruments that will perform a series of remote-sensing
experiments designed to shed new light on the Martian atmosphere, the
planet’s structure and its geology. In particular, the British-made Beagle
2 lander will contribute to the search for traces of life on Mars through
exobiology experiments and geochemistry research.

On board Mars Express tests have been run to check that the instruments
are functioning correctly. Mars Express has successfully come through its
first power test on the whole spacecraft after the gigantic solar flare on
28 October. Since 17 November the onboard software has been ‘frozen’ after
several updates and the spacecraft is now quietly proceeding to its

Before even entering into Martian orbit to perform its mission, Mars
Express has to face another challenge: safely delivering the Beagle 2
lander to its destination. This task, starting on 19 December, will not be
without risk.

First of all, to deliver the lander where planned, Mars Express has been
put on a collision course with Mars, since Beagle 2 does not have a
propulsion system of its own and must therefore be ‘carried’ precisely to
its destination. This means that after separation, Mars Express has to
veer away quickly to avoid crashing onto the planet.

During the cruise Beagle 2 will take its power from the mother spacecraft,
Mars Express. After separation and until its solar arrays are fully
deployed on the surface, Beagle 2 must rely on its own battery, which
cannot last beyond 6 days. So, like a caring parent, Mars Express must
release Beagle 2 at the last possible moment to ensure that the lander has
enough power for the rest of its journey to the surface.

Only then can Mars Express change its orientation and rapidly fire the
thrusters to get away from the collision course and enter into orbit
around Mars. This will be the first time that an orbiter delivers a
lander without its own propulsion onto a planet and attempts orbit
insertion immediately afterwards.

Since all these manoeuvres are time-critical and allow little margin of
error, the ground control team has had to simulate all possible scenarios
(including glitches and problems, on board and on the ground) to make sure
that nothing is left to chance.

The team has been training since September in a very realistic setting,
using the same computers and equipment that will be employed during this
mission phase. Although the real spacecraft cannot be directly involved,
its behaviour is simulated via a sophisticated computer programme, using
the actual flight software. These rehearsals, each lasting a day or more,
cover all possible situations from the failure of an onboard instrument
to the outbreak of a fire in the control room. One of these simulations
will take place during the press conference on 3 December.

ESA’s ground control team at ESOC, on the other hand, are having a very
busy time. They are actively rehearsing responses to any situation that
might arise when Mars Express releases Beagle 2 and enters into orbit
around Mars. “The Mars Express mission is pushing the operations staff to
extremes. Over the years, the experience acquired with experimental
missions has provided a solid basis on which to prepare for the
unexpected. The satellite controllers will rise to this new challenge”,
Gaele Winters, ESA Director of Technical and Operational Support, said.

Four media events have been scheduled relating to the arrival of Mars
Express at its destination (see our press release N° 74-2003). The next
event is scheduled on Wednesday 3 December at ESA/ESOC, Darmstadt,
Germany and will include the presentation of the first HRSC image and
further information about scientific expectations of the mission. All
Principal Investigators will present their instruments and early results
of testing and operations (see programme attached).

A videoconference of this ESA media briefing will be organised at
ESA/Headquarters, Paris (F), ESA/ESTEC, Noordwijk (NL) and ESA/ESRIN,
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.

Throughout December you can follow daily the countdown to arrival at Mars
on the web at :
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)
Fax: +33(0)

“Europe lands on Mars” Press Programme

10:30 – Welcome by Gaele Winters, ESA Director of Technical & Operational
Mars Express flight operations : a great challenge for an experienced team

10:40 – Dr Rudolf Schmidt, Mars Express Project Manager
Global mission objectives : Why is Europe flying to Mars?

10:50 – Mr Michael McKay, Flight Operations Director
Status of the spacecraft, latest and upcoming manoeuvres

11:00 – Question & Answer session for the “operations” part

11:10 – Dr Augustin Chicarro, Mars Express Project Scientist
The mission’s key scientific objectives : an introduction

11:20 – Prof. Gerhard Neukum, Principal Investigator, Free University of
Berlin (D)
The high-resolution stereo camera HRSC, on board the orbiter, takes a
sharp look at Mars

11:30 – Dr Martin Pätzold, Principal Investigator, University of Cologne,
Institute for Geophysics and Meteorology (D)
Preparing for Mars with MaRS (Mars Radio Science experiment)

11:40 – Prof. Colin Pillinger, Principal Investigator, Planetary Sciences
Research Institute (UK)
Beagle 2 landing on Mars : its instruments and scientific objectives

11:50 – Dr Lutz Richter, Co- Principal Investigator, German Aerospace
Center DLR, Cologne (D)
The operations of the “Mole” instrument on board Beagle-2

12:00 – Question & Answer session on “science” and the mission as a whole

12:10 – Conclusions by Gaele Winters

12:15 – Filming opportunities at the ESOC Main Control Room, MCR

12:30-12:45 – Opportunity for individual interviews with scientific and
operations experts


"Europe lands on Mars" Media Event ESA/ESOC - Wednesday 3 December 2003 - 10h30 - 12h30

First Name : ____________________ Surname : _____________________________

Media : _________________________________________________________________

Address : _______________________________________________________________


Tel: ___________________________ Fax : __________________________________

Mobile : _______________________ E-mail :________________________________

( ) I will be attending the media event at the following establishment

( ) I will not be attending

( ) Germany Location : ESA/ESOC Address : Robert-Bosch-Strasse 5, Darmstadt Opening hours : 10h00 - 13h00 Contact : Jocelyne Landeau- Constantin, Tel: +49.6151.90.2696 - Fax: +49.6151.90.2961

( ) France Location : ESA HQ Address : 8/10, rue Mario Nikis, Paris - Salle VIP Opening hours : 10h00 - 13h00 Contact : Anne-Marie Rémondin, Tel: +33(0) - Fax: +33(0)

( ) The Netherlands Location : ESA/ESTEC Address : Keplerlaan 1, Noordwijk - Conference Room Ba 024 Opening hours : 10h00 - 13h00 Contact : Heidi Graf, Tel : +31(0)71.565.2696 - Fax: +31(0)71.565.5728

( ) Italy Location : ESA/ESRIN Address : Via Galileo Galilei, Frascati,Ada Byron Room (ex-cinema room) Opening hours : 10h00 - 13h00 Contact : Simonetta Cheli, Tel: +39.06.9418.0951 - Fax: +39.06.9418.0952