Sci-Tech

The Odyssey of Mars Express: Charting Two Decades of Red Planet Exploration

Mars appears in the night sky different from all the other gleaming dots in the darkness. Look carefully and even to the naked eye it has an orangey hue, look even closer and there’s a twenty-year-old spacecraft that has been lovingly circling it for two decades. Peering down on Mars’ familiar but eerily lifeless surface, Mars Express has re-written our view of a planet that perhaps once looked more like our own home, and where we plan to set foot soon.

The Mars Express spacecraft, launched by the European Space Agency in 2003, has far exceeded its planned lifespan, offering significant insights into Mars’ geological and atmospheric characteristics, and finding evidence of water ice on and beneath the surface. Despite technical challenges, the mission team has kept the spacecraft functional, helping with other missions like NASA’s Phoenix and Mars Science Laboratory missions. The mission will continue until at least 2026.

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