Mars Express just turned 20 and MAJIS commissioning
Friday June 2nd was the 20th anniversary of the launch of the first ESA probe towards another planet, Mars. A celebration was held at the ESA control center (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany. Several colleagues from IAS were there representing the laboratory and the OMEGA team.
IAS is responsible for OMEGA, which is one of 7 science instruments on board Mars Express. Its development began over 30 years ago, and it has been a precursor to many instruments of that class which have since been sent for planetary exploration. The most recent one is MAJIS on the JUICE mission, for which IAS is also responsible.
Mars Express is the 3rd oldest interplanetary probe still in operations. It has conducted over 24500 orbits around Mars, exceeding by over 18 years its nominal mission phase. During these 20 years, OMEGA has observed Mars 17872 times, generating over 1.5 TB of science data. The multi-year sequence observing the surface and atmosphere of Mars allows understanding its dynamical features, such as dust storms, clouds, seasonal ices, etc.
OMEGA has had a pivotal role in our renewed understanding of Mars, but also of the generic evolutionary processes which took place on Earth and throughout the inner Solar System. Thanks to the many discoveries which it enabled, Mars Express has significantly contributed to shaping the recent Mars exploration program, which today involves many more international actors.
ESA recently extended the Mars Express mission until end of 2026, with the future option to further extend it to 2028 or beyond.
A moving coincidence : on June 2nd, as the IAS team was at ESOC to celebrate the 20 years of OMEGA, another part of the team was also there for the commissioning (first functional tests) of the new MAJIS instrument (see links below) on the JUICE mission, currently cruising towards Jupiter since its launch on April 14th.
Contact at IAS: John Carter
Link: ESA press release.
MAJIS (CNRS and ESA) :
ESA illustration of the milestones achieved by Mars Express over its 20 years of operations.