The European Space Agency is conducting a space mission with exploration purpose called Mars Express. It is the agencyâ€™s first planetary mission and it is intended to explore Mars. The name Express was given due to the fast and efficient construction of the spacecraft. Plus, the name also refers to the short period of time the spacecraft would spend in the interplanetary space, at the moment when Earth and Mars will have their orbits at the closest distance in the past 60 000 years.
There are two parts of the Mars Express mission: the Orbiter and Beagle 2. Beagle 2 is a lander specially designed for research of exobiological and geochemical elements. The Beagle 2 did not land safely on the surface of Mars, but its predecessor, Orbiter, has been conducting scientific measurements with a successful rate since the beginning of 2004. It performs mineralogical mapping and high-resolution imaging of the surface, it determines with high precision the atmospheric composition and circulation, it performs radar sounding at surface level and down to permafrost and it studies how the atmosphere and the interplanetary medium interact.
The designs of some instruments used on the orbiter, such as spectrometers and camera systems is the same as the designs used on the failed Russian mission Mars 96. Mars Expressâ€™s design is basically the one of the ESA’s Rosetta mission. They are the same designs that were used on the Venus Express, so the time and development costs would be reduced, while reliability increased.