A European Space Agency (ESA) mission that will arrive at
Mars this month has American participants, and Europeans are
team members for two NASA spacecraft that will reach Mars in

ESA’s Mars Express and NASA’s twin Mars Exploration Rovers
will examine the red planet in quite different and
complementary ways. “Together, these missions can provide a
range of new information about Mars that neither could provide
alone,” said Dave Lavery, program executive for the Mars
Exploration Rovers and for NASA’s participation in Mars
Express at NASA Headquarters, Washington. “Historically, there
have been only three successful landings on Mars. In the span
of only one month, we may double that number, and our
knowledge of Mars may increase even more,” he said.

Mars Express is expected to release part of its payload, the
Beagle 2 lander, on Dec. 19. On Christmas Eve (in U.S. time
zones), Beagle 2 will parachute to the Martian surface, and
Mars Express will enter orbit around the planet. Beagle 2 will
use analytical tests and a robotic arm to search for evidence
of past or present life at its landing site. The orbiter will
use seven instruments to study Mars’ atmosphere, structure and
geology. The science teams for Beagle 2, and for every
instrument on Mars Express, include U.S. researchers. Two
instruments on Mars Express have components from U.S. partners
in the mission.

The Beagle 2 team plans to use NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter to
relay communications to Earth on the lander’s arrival day and
in subsequent weeks.

The U.S. role in Mars Express includes navigational support
and software developed from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
(JPL), Pasadena, Calif. and communications support from the
JPL-managed Deep Space Network, which operates antenna
stations in California, Spain and Australia. One of the Mars
Express instruments, with U.S. components, will use radar to
seek evidence of underground water, either frozen or liquid.

“This will be the first attempt to study layers far below
Mars’ surface,” said JPL’s Dr. William Johnson, manager for
the instrument, which was built under the leadership of Dr.
Giovanni Picardi, University of Rome, La Sapienza. The
instrument, the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and
Ionosphere Sounding, is designed to discern boundaries between
layers as deep as 5 kilometers (3 miles) under the surface. It
will also examine the structure and variability of the Martian
ionosphere, the top layer of the atmosphere. The University of
Iowa, Iowa City, built the transmitter for the radar
instrument. JPL built the receiver. Astro Aerospace,
Carpinteria, Calif., built the 40-meter (131-foot) antenna.
Italy provided the instrument’s digital processing system and
software and integrated the parts.

The other Mars Express instrument with key NASA-funded
components is the Analyzer of Space Plasma and Energetic
Atoms. It will examine interactions between the Martian
atmosphere and the solar wind of charged particles speeding
away from the sun. Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio,
Texas, built two sensors for it, an electron spectrometer and
an ion mass analyzer.

Europe provided important tools on NASA’s twin Mars
Exploration Rovers. The German Space Agency (DLR) and the Max
Planck Institute for Chemistry, Mainz, Germany, supplied each
rover’s alpha particle X-ray spectrometer instrument. DLR and
the University of Mainz supplied the Mossbauer spectrometer.
The Neils Bohr Institute, Copenhagen, Denmark, supplied the
magnet array for observation by rover cameras. Plans call for
Mars Express to relay signals from a NASA rover at least once.
In addition, Europeans make up about one-sixth of the members
of the rovers’ science team. The rovers, scheduled to land on
Mars on Jan. 3 and on Jan. 25 (Eastern time zone)
respectively, will seek evidence about whether the environment
in two regions might once have been capable of supporting

For information about NASA, visit: http://www.nasa.gov

For information about Mars Express visit:
http://sci.esa.int/home/marsexpress; about its radar
experiment, visit: http://www.marsis.com

For information about the Mars Exploration Rovers, visit:

Mars Express is managed by the 15-nation ESA science and
technology center at Noordwijk, Netherlands. JPL, a division
of California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages the
Mars Odyssey and Mars Exploration Rover missions for NASA’s
Office of Space Science, Washington.