New Water Map of Mars will Prove Invaluable for Future Exploration

Mars global map of hydrated minerals. [Credit: ESA/Mars Express (OMEGA) and NASA/Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (CRISM)]

PARIS (ESA PR) — A new map of Mars is changing the way we think about the planet’s watery past, and showing where we should land in the future.

The map shows mineral deposits across the planet and has been painstakingly created over the last decade using data from ESA’s Mars Express Observatoire pour la Mineralogie, l’Eau, les Glaces et l’Activité (OMEGA) instrument and NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) instrument.

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ESA Mars Orbiters Support NASA Perseverance Landing

ESA’s Trace Gas Orbiter will relay data from NASA’s Perseverance rover to ground stations on Earth. (Credit: ESA)
  • On 18 February, NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover will land on the Red Planet
  • ESA’s Mars orbiters – the ESA-Roscosmos ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) and Mars Express – are supporting the landing
  • TGO will relay important data from Perseverance to Earth as soon as four hours after landing
  • Mars Express is monitoring the local conditions at the landing site, Jezero Crater
  • Both ESA orbiters are providing context images of the region
  • TGO will attempt to image the rover in the weeks after landing

NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover is due to land on the Red Planet at 21:43 CET on 18 February 2021. In order to communicate with Earth from its landing site in Jezero Crater, the rover will rely on spacecraft orbiting Mars to relay the images and other data it collects back to Earth and pass on the commands from engineers beamed across space in the other direction.

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PolyU-made Space Instruments Complete Lunar Sampling for Chang’e 5

Professor YUNG Kai-leung (right) and Dr Robert TAM have developed valuable experience from participating in several lunar exploration projects of the Nation. (Credit: Hong Kong Polytechnic University)

HONG KONG, 8 December 2020 (PolyU PR) — In support of the Nation’s first lunar sample return mission, a research team at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) developed and manufactured one of the key systems for this historic undertaking, namely the “Surface Sampling and Packing System”, in collaboration with the China Academy of Space Technology.

The PolyU-developed system accomplished the tasks of automatic sample collection and packaging on the lunar surface following the soft landing of the Chang’e 5 probe on 1 December 2020. The vehicle carrying the samples is currently on course back to Earth, and is expected to touch down in China’s Inner Mongolia region next week.

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Mars Express Finds More Underground Water on Mars

ESA’s Mars Express spacecraft has discovered several ponds of liquid water buried under the ice in the south polar region of Mars. The spacecraft’s radar instrument, MARSIS (Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding), revealed one underground reservoir in 2018, buried about 1.5 km below the ice. Now, taking into account more data and analysing it in a different way, three new ponds have been discovered. The largest underground lake measures about 20 x 30 km, and is surrounded by several smaller ponds. The water is thought to be very salty in order for it to remain liquid at cold temperatures.

Mars was once warmer and wetter with water flowing across the surface, much like early Earth. While it is not possible for water to remain stable on the surface today the new result opens the possibility that an entire system of ancient lakes might exist underground, perhaps millions or even billions of years old. They would be ideal locations to search for evidence of life on Mars, albeit very difficult to reach.

Subglacial lakes are also known on Earth, like Lake Vostok in Antarctica. They may harbour unique ecosystems, providing useful analogies for astrobiologists exploring how life can survive in extreme environments. The techniques used to analyse the radar data on Mars are similar to those used in investigations of subglacial lakes in Antarctica, Canada and Greenland.

Flight Over the Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover Landing Site

Video Caption: This video shows Jezero crater, the landing site of the NASA Mars 2020 Perseverance rover on the Red Planet, based on images from ESA’s Mars Express mission. The planned landing area is marked with an orange ellipse.

Launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida on 30 July 2020 on board an Atlas V rocket, the Perseverance rover will land on 18 February 2021 in Jezero crater.

An impact crater with a diameter of about 45 km, Jezero is located at the rim of the giant Isidis impact basin. Morphological evidence suggests that the crater once hosted a lake, some 3.5 billion years ago.

Jezero possesses an inlet- and an outlet channel. The inlet channel discharges into a fan-delta deposit, containing water-rich minerals such as smectite clays. Scientists believe that the lake was relatively long lived because the delta may have required 1 to 10 million years to reach its thickness and size.

Other studies conclude that the lake did not experience periods of important water-level fluctuations and that it was formed by a continuous surface runoff. This makes Jezero crater to a prime target for the search for potential signs of microbial life, because organic molecules are very well preserved in river deltas and lake sediments.

A recent study of the ancient lakeshores, diverse minerals and violent volcanism of Jezero crater based on data from ESA’s Mars Express mission is available here: https://bit.ly/MarsExpressHelpsUncove…

The animation was created using an image mosaic made from four single orbit observations obtained by the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on Mars Express between 2004 and 2008.

The mosaic combines data from the HRSC nadir and colour channels; the nadir channel is aligned perpendicular to the surface of Mars, as if looking straight down at the surface.

The mosaic image was then combined with topography information from the stereo channels of HRSC to generate a three-dimensional landscape, which was then recorded from different perspectives, as with a movie camera, to render the flight shown in the video.

Copyright:
Animation: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO
Music: Björn Schreiner
Soundtrack logo: Alicia Neeseman

ESA’s Mars Express Matches Methane Spike Measured by NASA’s Curiosity Rover

Artist’s impression of Mars Express. The background image is based on an actual image of Mars taken by the spacecraft’s high resolution stereo camera. Image credit: Spacecraft: ESA/ATG medialab; Mars: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin)

ROME, 1 April 2019 (ESA PR) — A reanalysis of data collected by ESA’s Mars Express during the first 20 months of NASA’s Curiosity mission found one case of correlated methane detection, the first time an in-situ measurement has been independently confirmed from orbit.

Reports of methane in the martian atmosphere have been intensely debated, with Mars Express contributing one of the first measurements from orbit in 2004, shortly after its arrival at the Red Planet.

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Geologic Evidence for Extensive Ground Water System on Mars

Artist’s impression of Mars Express. The background image is based on an actual image of Mars taken by the spacecraft’s high resolution stereo camera. Image credit: Spacecraft: ESA/ATG medialab; Mars: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin)

UTRECHT, The Netherlands (Utrecht University PR) — Utrecht University geologist Francesco Salese studied 24 low-lying areas distributed around the northern hemisphere of Mars. Satellite images have provided evidence of large volumes of simultaneous ground water activity connecting the areas. Salese has also found remains of deltas and coastlines on the planet’s surface. “These are strong indications that water was once present in these dried-up basins. There is no evidence that they had been filled from the surface, so upwelling ground water is the only remaining explanation. The deltas are all located at approximately the same elevation, so we are probably dealing with a ground water reservoir that spans the entire planet.”

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Mars Express Gets Festive: A Winter Wonderland on the Red Planet

Perspective view of Korolev crater (Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin)

PARIS (ESA PR) — This image shows what appears to be a large patch of fresh, untrodden snow – a dream for any lover of the holiday season. However, it’s a little too distant for a last-minute winter getaway: this feature, known as Korolev crater, is found on Mars, and is shown here in beautiful detail as seen by Mars Express.

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Mars Express Detects Liquid Water Beneath Planet’s South Pole

Mars Express detects water buried under the south pole of Mars. (Credit: Context map: NASA/Viking; THEMIS background: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State University; MARSIS data: ESA/NASA/JPL/ASI/Univ. Rome; R. Orosei et al 2018)

PARIS, 25 July 2018 (ESA PR) — Radar data collected by ESA’s Mars Express point to a pond of liquid water buried under layers of ice and dust in the south polar region of Mars.

Evidence for the Red Planet’s watery past is prevalent across its surface in the form of vast dried-out river valley networks and gigantic outflow channels clearly imaged by orbiting spacecraft. Orbiters, together with landers and rovers exploring the martian surface, also discovered minerals that can only form in the presence of liquid water.

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Beagle 2 Lander Found on Mars

Beagle 2 lander on Martian surface. (Credit: NASA)
Beagle 2 lander on Martian surface. (Credit: NASA)

SWINDON, England (UKSA PR) — The UK-led Beagle 2 Mars Lander, thought lost on Mars since 2003, has been found partially deployed on the surface of the planet, ending the mystery of what happened to the mission more than a decade ago. This find shows that the Entry, Descent and Landing (EDL) sequence for Beagle 2 worked and the lander did successfully touchdown on Mars on Christmas Day 2003. Beagle 2 hitched a ride to Mars on ESA’s Mars Express mission and was a collaboration between industry and academia. It would have delivered world-class science from the surface of the Red Planet. Many UK academic groups and industrial companies contributed to Beagle 2.

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Phobos Downgraded From Solid Moon to Giant Rubble Pile

This image of Phobos’s surface was obtained by the Super Resolution Channel (or SRC, a part of the High Resolution Stereo Camera experiment) on board ESA’s Mars Express on 3 August 2008 (orbit 5889). The distance from the moon’s centre was 656 km, and the image resolution is 6 m/pixel. The original image has been corrected for mirror distortion. Credits: ESA/ DLR/ FU Berlin (G. Neukum)

ESA PRESS RELEASE

Mars Express encountered Phobos last night, smoothly skimming past at just 67 km, the closest any manmade object has ever approached Mars’ enigmatic moon. The data collected could help unlock the origin of not just Phobos but other ‘second generation’ moons.

Something is not right about Phobos. It looks like a solid object but previous flybys have shown that it is not dense enough to be solid all the way through. Instead, it must be 25-35% porous. This has led planetary scientists to believe that it is little more than a ‘rubble pile’ circling Mars. Such a rubble pile would be composed of blocks both large and small resting together, with possibly large spaces between them where they do not fit easily together.

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ESA Extends Mission to Mars, Venus and Earth

ESA MISSION UPDATE

ESA’s Science Programme Committee has extended the operations of ESA’s Mars Express, Venus Express and Cluster missions until 31 December 2009. The decision to extend the three successful missions was taken on 4 February this year. 

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Groundwater Springs Played Key Role in Shaping Mars

ESA PRESS RELEASE

Data and images from Mars Express suggest that several Light Toned Deposits, some of the least understood features on Mars, were formed when large amounts of groundwater burst on to the surface. Scientists propose that groundwater had a greater role in shaping the martian surface than previously believed, and may have sheltered primitive life forms as the planet started drying up.

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ESA’s Mars Express Maps Aurorae on Mars


An artist’s impression of how the ‘green’ aurorae may look to an observer orbiting on the night-side of Mars. Credits: M. Holmström (IRF)

ESA MISSION UPDATE

Scientists using ESA’s Mars Express have produced the first crude map of aurorae on Mars. These displays of ultraviolet light appear to be located close to the residual magnetic fields generated by Mars’s crustal rocks. They highlight a number of mysteries about the way Mars interacts with electrically charged particles originating from the Sun.
 
The aurorae on Mars were discovered in 2004 using the SPICAM ultraviolet and infrared atmospheric spectrometer on board Mars Express. They are a powerful tool with which scientists can investigate the composition and structure of the Red Planet’s atmosphere.

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Mars Express Photographs Universe’s Largest Known Potato; Best Images Ever of Hideously Misshapen Moon

ESA MISSION UPDATE
30 July 2008

Mars Express closed in on the intriguing martian moon Phobos at 6:49 CEST on 23 July, flying past at 3 km/s, only 93 km from the moon. The ESA spacecraft’s fly-bys of the moon have returned its most detailed full-disc images ever, also in 3-D, using the High Resolution Stereo Camera on board.

Phobos is what scientists call a ‘small irregular body’. Measuring 27 km × 22 km × 19 km, it is one of the least reflective objects in the Solar System, thought to be a capture-asteroid or a remnant of the material that formed the planets.

The best images of Phobos ever

The HRSC images, which are still under processing, form a bounty for scientists studying Phobos. They are a result of observations carried out over several close fly-bys of the martian moon, performed over the past three weeks. At their best, the pictures have a resolution of 3.7 m/pixel and are taken in five channels (in the stereo channel) for images in 3-D and (in the photometric channels) to perform analyses of the physical properties of the surface.

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