The European Space Agency’s Mars Express spacecraft is about to reach its final operating orbit above the poles of Mars. The scientific investigation has now started and early results look promising.

A press conference will be held on Friday 23rd January at 11.00 CET (10.00 GMT) at ESA’s Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany, and in video conference with the other ESA centres.

UK scientists are involved in 3 of the 7 instruments on Mars Express.

There, under the auspices of ESA Council Chair, Germany’s Minister for Education and Research, Mrs Edelgard Bulmahn, ESA’s Director of the Scientific Programme, Prof. David Southwood and the Principal Investigators of all instruments on board Mars Express will present the first data and preliminary results, including more images from the High Resolution Stereo Camera.

UK scientists, funded by PPARC, play key roles in the orbiter. Of the seven instruments onboard UK scientists are involved in three.

The Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and the Mullard Space Science Laboratory, UCL are involved with ASPERA, the energetic Neutral Atoms Analyser, which will look at how the solar wind erodes the Martian atmosphere to identify the constituent atoms of water.

University College London and the Open University are involved with

HRSC, the High Resolution Stereo Camera, which will image the entire

planet in full colour and stereo to produce a 3D map.

University College London, Queen Mary University of London and University of Bristol are involved with MARSIS, the subsurface Sounding Radar/Altimeter, which will search for water beneath the surface crust of Mars. This instrument will not be turned on until April.

UK scientists involved will be available for comment on the day (see contact details below).

The press conference will be broadcast by ESA TV (see