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Ten things about Mars
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Ten things about Mars / Highlights / ExoMars / Exploration / Human and Robotic Exploration / Science & Exploration / ESA

    Ten things you did not know about Mars: 1. Mars exploration
    Ten things you did not know about Mars: 1. Mars exploration

    ESA has demonstrated expertise in studying Mars from orbit, now we are looking to secure a safe landing, to rove across the surface and to drill underground to search for evidence of life. Our orbiters are already in place to provide data relay services for surface missions. The next logical step is to bring samples back to Earth, to provide access to Mars for scientists globally, and to better prepare for future human exploration of the Red Planet.

    This set of infographics highlight’s ESA’s contribution to Mars exploration as we ramp up to the launch of our second ExoMars mission, and look beyond to completing a Mars Sample Return mission.

    This graphic highlights the current situation at Mars, which has six orbiters, one lander and a rover, with more getting ready to join the fleet.

    #ExploreFarther

    Credits: ESA – S. Poletti
    Ten things you did not know about Mars: 2. Communications network
    Ten things you did not know about Mars: 2. Communications network

    Data relay is an essential part of Mars exploration, with commands sent to rovers and landers on the surface via orbiting spacecraft, and in turn, scientific data collected by the surface missions is sent back to Earth through the orbiter. All of ESA and NASA’s orbiters provide data relay services for surface missions, which currently comprises NASA’s Curiosity rover and Insight lander. The ESA-Roscosmos Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) is a key provider, relaying around 60% of NASA’s Mars surface data to Earth. TGO will be the primary relay for the second ExoMars mission in 2021, which comprises a rover and a surface science platform.

    ESA has demonstrated expertise in studying Mars from orbit, now we are looking to secure a safe landing, to rove across the surface and to drill underground to search for evidence of life. Our orbiters are already in place to provide data relay services for surface missions. The next logical step is to bring samples back to Earth, to provide access to Mars for scientists globally, and to better prepare for future human exploration of the Red Planet.

    This set of infographics highlight’s ESA’s contribution to Mars exploration as we ramp up to the launch of our second ExoMars mission, and look beyond to completing a Mars Sample Return mission.

    Credits: ESA – S. Poletti
    Ten things you did not know about Mars: 3. Weather reports
    Ten things you did not know about Mars: 3. Weather reports

    Just as we receive daily weather updates for Earth, so Mars orbiters and landers are also providing insights to the weather on Mars. From orbit, global changes in cloud and dust can be monitored. ESA’s Mars Express made the first images of carbon dioxide ice clouds in the atmosphere and more recently observed a curious water-ice cloud forming over one of the planet’s large volcanoes. NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor acquires a global view of the red planet and its weather patterns every day.  From the surface, the local weather at specific sites is recorded by landers and rovers, providing details of the daily temperature range, wind speed and pressure, for example. Click here to see the daily weather report from NASA’s Insight lander at Elysium Planitia, and here for the weather at Gale Crater, where the Curiosity rover is exploring.

    The ESA-Roscosmos surface science platform will also host a suite of weather-recording instruments to monitor the environmental conditions at Oxia Planum. Its instruments will provide data on the ground and air temperature, and on the pressure, humidity, wind, radiation and dust at the landing site.

    ESA has demonstrated expertise in studying Mars from orbit, now we are looking to secure a safe landing, to rove across the surface and to drill underground to search for evidence of life. Our orbiters are already in place to provide data relay services for surface missions. The next logical step is to bring samples back to Earth, to provide access to Mars for scientists globally, and to better prepare for future human exploration of the Red Planet.

    This set of infographics highlight’s ESA’s contribution to Mars exploration as we ramp up to the launch of our second ExoMars mission, and look beyond to completing a Mars Sample Return mission.

    #ExploreFarther

    Credits: ESA – S. Poletti
    Ten things you did not know about Mars: 4. Atmosphere escape
    Ten things you did not know about Mars: 4. Atmosphere escape

    This graphic highlights an ongoing process at Mars: the escaping atmosphere. Ancient Mars was a lot warmer and wetter with a much thicker atmosphere than the present day, which is cold and arid. Just as the other rocky planets, Mars too would have started out with a thicker atmosphere thanks to the delivery of volatiles from asteroids and comets, and volcanic outgassing from the planet as its rocky interior cooled down. The planet’s low gravity and lack of magnetic field likely contributed to its inability to hold on to its atmosphere over time. It is exposed to the solar wind – a continuous flow of charged particles from the Sun – that, just as on Venus, continues to strip away the atmosphere even today. Mars Express has been studying the Sun-Mars interaction for more than 15 years to understand how the atmosphere is escaping. More recently, the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter observed that water loss from the atmosphere is more enhanced during global dust storms.

    ESA has demonstrated expertise in studying Mars from orbit, now we are looking to secure a safe landing, to rove across the surface and to drill underground to search for evidence of life. Our orbiters are already in place to provide data relay services for surface missions. The next logical step is to bring samples back to Earth, to provide access to Mars for scientists globally, and to better prepare for future human exploration of the Red Planet.

    This set of infographics highlight’s ESA’s contribution to Mars exploration as we ramp up to the launch of our second ExoMars mission, and look beyond to completing a Mars Sample Return mission.

    #ExploreFarther

    Credits: ESA – S. Poletti
    Ten things you did not know about Mars: 5. Ozone
    Ten things you did not know about Mars: 5. Ozone

    Just like Earth has an ozone layer, so do Venus and Mars. In fact, Mars has three distinct layers, although they are much weaker than the one on Earth and vary greatly in location and with time.

    Ozone, a molecule containing three oxygen atoms – is a pollutant at ground level on Earth (it is the main ingredient of urban smog) but at higher altitudes it provides an essential protective layer against harmful solar ultraviolet light, which is why the ozone hole is so concerning. Plant life today plays a critical role in taking in carbon dioxide and replenishing our oxygen and ozone. But ozone is also found on Venus and Mars, where it is created by non-biological means. On these planets ozone is formed when sunlight breaks up carbon dioxide molecules, releasing oxygen atoms, which can sometimes re-combine into ozone molecules. Understanding the different ozone-forming processes on different planets will be important for studying the diversity of exoplanets, in case the combination of ozone with other atmospheric constituents is relevant from a biological perspective.

    ESA has a fleet of upcoming exoplanet missions – Cheops, Plato and Ariel – that will each tackle a different aspect of exoplanet science. In particular, Ariel, the Atmospheric Remote-Sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large-survey mission, will perform a chemical census of a large and diverse sample of exoplanets by analysing their atmospheres in great detail.

    ESA has demonstrated expertise in studying Mars from orbit, now we are looking to secure a safe landing, to rove across the surface and to drill underground to search for evidence of life. Our orbiters are already in place to provide data relay services for surface missions. The next logical step is to bring samples back to Earth, to provide access to Mars for scientists globally, and to better prepare for future human exploration of the Red Planet.

    This set of infographics highlight’s ESA’s contribution to Mars exploration as we ramp up to the launch of our second ExoMars mission, and look beyond to completing a Mars Sample Return mission.

    #ExploreFarther

    Credits: ESA – S. Poletti
    Ten things you did not know about Mars: 6. Water
    Ten things you did not know about Mars: 6. Water

    Mars Express has provided a wealth of evidence for the planet’s wetter past, from images of dried out river beds to the discovery of minerals that can only form in the presence of water. With radar, the spacecraft also detected a pond of liquid water buried below layers of ice near the planet’s south pole. Meanwhile, the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter is mapping the distribution of water-ice and water-rich minerals in the uppermost metre of the planet’s surface. Understanding critical resources like water is essential to understand the history of life on other worlds – and for future robotic and human exploration.

    ESA has demonstrated expertise in studying Mars from orbit, now we are looking to secure a safe landing, to rove across the surface and to drill underground to search for evidence of life. Our orbiters are already in place to provide data relay services for surface missions. The next logical step is to bring samples back to Earth, to provide access to Mars for scientists globally, and to better prepare for future human exploration of the Red Planet.

    This set of infographics highlight’s ESA’s contribution to Mars exploration as we ramp up to the launch of our second ExoMars mission, and look beyond to completing a Mars Sample Return mission.

    #ExploreFarther

    Credits: ESA – S. Poletti
    Ten things you did not know about Mars: 7. Methane
    Ten things you did not know about Mars: 7. Methane

    The story of methane on Mars is a subject of intense debate. On Earth, methane is mainly created by living organisms, but also through natural geological processes. It has a relatively short lifetime of around 400 years – because it is broken down by ultraviolet light – so detecting it on another planet raises exciting questions as to how it is produced. Previous observations of Mars, by both Earth-based telescopes and ESA’s Mars Express, hint at seasonal variations in methane abundance, with concentrations varying with location and time. NASA’s Curiosity rover has also reported methane ‘spikes’, with one corresponding to a detection by Mars Express. Curiously, the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, the most sensitive atmosphere analyser at Mars, has not yet detected any. In order to reconcile the range of results, which show variations in both time and location, scientists have to understand better the different processes acting to create and destroy methane

    It is also important to note that not all life creates methane, so even if there is no methane-generating biology, it does not mean there is no life on Mars. The ESA-Roscosmos ExoMars rover, arriving at Mars in 2021, will be able to drill down below the surface, away from the harsh radiation that would destroy any life there today, to search for evidence underground.

    ESA has demonstrated expertise in studying Mars from orbit, now we are looking to secure a safe landing, to rove across the surface and to drill underground to search for evidence of life. Our orbiters are already in place to provide data relay services for surface missions. The next logical step is to bring samples back to Earth, to provide access to Mars for scientists globally, and to better prepare for future human exploration of the Red Planet.

    This set of infographics highlight’s ESA’s contribution to Mars exploration as we ramp up to the launch of our second ExoMars mission, and look beyond to completing a Mars Sample Return mission.

    #ExploreFarther

    Credits: ESA – S. Poletti
    Ten things you did not know about Mars: 8. Aurora
    Ten things you did not know about Mars: 8. Aurora

    Mars Express made the first ever detection of martian auroras in 2004, soon after the spacecraft arrived at the Red Planet.

    On Earth, auroras are spectacular, colourful displays that are regularly seen in the night sky above the polar regions. On our planet, as well as on the giant planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, they occur where the planetary magnetic field lines approach the surface near the poles. The emissions of light are produced by charged particles (electrons, protons or ions) in the solar wind travelling down the field lines and colliding with gaseous molecules or atoms in the upper atmosphere. Mars no longer has have a global magnetic field but residual spots of magnetism are left in its crust, remnants of an old magnetic field. Mars Express detected localized light emissions in the upper atmosphere over these areas. Over the 15 years of the mission, Mars Express has been providing more and more details of the auroras at Mars, which seem to be unique in the Solar System.

    ESA has demonstrated expertise in studying Mars from orbit, now we are looking to secure a safe landing, to rove across the surface and to drill underground to search for evidence of life. Our orbiters are already in place to provide data relay services for surface missions. The next logical step is to bring samples back to Earth, to provide access to Mars for scientists globally, and to better prepare for future human exploration of the Red Planet.

    This set of infographics highlight’s ESA’s contribution to Mars exploration as we ramp up to the launch of our second ExoMars mission, and look beyond to completing a Mars Sample Return mission.

    Credits: ESA – S. Poletti
    Ten things you did not know about Mars: 9. Instant images
    Ten things you did not know about Mars: 9. Instant images

    Mars Express is equipped with a webcam – the Visual Monitoring Camera – that returns regular snapshots of the planet from orbit. Originally designed for capturing the separation of the Beagle-2 lander, the camera was later ‘upgraded’ to a scientific instrument, providing context views of the entire planet and its atmospheric features. To date it has returned over 35 000 images; they are shared automatically to the camera’s Twitter account and posted on a dedicated Flickr channel.

    Taking global images of Mars in one snapshot is only possible by two Mars spacecraft: through the Visual Monitoring Camera onboard ESA’s Mars Express and the Mars Colour Camera on India’s Mangalyaan orbiter – depending on how close they are to the planet. NASA’s Mars Odyssey also provides daily global views, combined of multiple image segments.

    ESA has demonstrated expertise in studying Mars from orbit, now we are looking to secure a safe landing, to rove across the surface and to drill underground to search for evidence of life. Our orbiters are already in place to provide data relay services for surface missions. The next logical step is to bring samples back to Earth, to provide access to Mars for scientists globally, and to better prepare for future human exploration of the Red Planet.

    This set of infographics highlight’s ESA’s contribution to Mars exploration as we ramp up to the launch of our second ExoMars mission, and look beyond to completing a Mars Sample Return mission.

    #ExploreFarther

    Credits: ESA – S. Poletti
    Ten things you did not know about Mars: 10. Moons
    Ten things you did not know about Mars: 10. Moons

    Mars has two moons, Phobos and Deimos, but no one can say for sure where they came from. Two leading theories propose that they are either asteroids captured into Mars orbit, or were born from the debris thrown out from a giant impact on the surface of Mars. The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, JAXA, is planning a mission to survey the two moons, and return a sample from one of them. Europe is also participating to the Martian Moons Exploration mission. Clarifying the origin of the two moons will help us understand more about how the Solar System formed and evolved.

    ESA has demonstrated expertise in studying Mars from orbit, now we are looking to secure a safe landing, to rove across the surface and to drill underground to search for evidence of life. Our orbiters are already in place to provide data relay services for surface missions. The next logical step is to bring samples back to Earth, to provide access to Mars for scientists globally, and to better prepare for future human exploration of the Red Planet.

    This set of infographics highlight’s ESA’s contribution to Mars exploration as we ramp up to the launch of our second ExoMars mission, and look beyond to completing a Mars Sample Return mission.

    #ExploreFarther

    Credits: ESA – S. Poletti

    Ten things about Mars

    Discover fascinating facts about the Red Planet and how ESA is contributing to the scientific exploration of Mars
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