International collaboration between Europe and Japan took a step forward last month when scientists building instruments for ESA’s Mars Express mission travelled to Japan for a meeting with their counterparts on Nozomi, the Japanese Institute of Space and Astronautical Science’s (ISAS) mission to Mars.

The two teams identified investigations they plan to do jointly and agreed that both senior scientists and young researchers from the other mission would join each instrument team. “There was a very fruitful atmosphere of cooperation and understanding between the scientists on the two teams, with members of both missions wanting to join the others’ teams,” said Agustin Chicarro, Mars Express Project Scientist.

ESA’s Science Programme and ISAS are of similar size and the hope is that the collaboration will be the first of many. “We’re looking to the long term. We want to base our relationship on friendship and mutual trust. For too long Europe and Japan have been looking for partners across different oceans. Now we realise that we’re sitting at different ends of the same landmass,” said Chicarro.

Nozomi already has significant international participation, with four of the mission’s 14 scientific instruments having Principal Investigators from outside Japan. Only one of Mars Express’s instruments has substantial involvement from outside Europe.

Nozomi will go into near equatorial orbit around Mars shortly after Mars Express enters polar orbit in December 2003. The presence of the two spacecraft in complementary orbits makes them ideal for joint investigations, especially of the atmosphere. Those planned at the meeting include simultaneous observations of the weather on Mars from the two vantagepoints.

Senior scientists and their post-graduate students are being chosen to join each instrument team. As the Mars Express instruments are now developed, the Japanese scientists will be involved in testing and calibration over the next few months and will contribute towards data analysis later on when Mars Express is in orbit. Nozomi has already been launched and is waiting in Earth orbit until it can make the journey to Mars in 2003. Hence European scientists on the Japanese teams will be largely involved with data reduction and processing after the spacecraft has arrived.

The meeting agreed to hold a workshop once a year to discuss joint progress. However, to get the collaboration off to a good start, an additional technical meeting will probably be held later this year.

Mars Express payload
HRSC – Super high resolution stereo colour imager
OMEGA – Infrared mineralogical mapping spectrometer
MARSIS – Sub-surface sounding radar/altimeter
PFS – Atmospheric Fourier spectrometer
SPICAM – IR and UV atmospheric spectrometer
ASPERA – Energetic neutral atom analyser
MaRS – Radio science experiment
BEAGLE 2 – Small lander with suite of imagers, organic and mineral chemical analysers, robotic sampling devices and meteorology sensors
MELaCom – Lander communications package

Nozomi payload
NMS – Neutral gas mass spectrometer
PET – Probe for electron temperature
TPA – Thermal plasma analyser
PWS – Plasma wave and sounder experiment
LFA – Low-frequency wave analyser
OCLT – Radio science experiment
MIC – Mars imaging camera
MDC – Mars dust counter
ISA – Low-energy ion spectrum analyser
ESA – Low-energy e- spectrum analyser
EIS – High-energy e- & ion spectrometer
XUV – Extreme ultraviolet spectrometer
MGF – Magnetic field measurement
UVS – Ultraviolet imaging spectrometer IMI – Ion mass imager