Mars Express celebrates 10 years in orbit... or 5 martian years
Mars Express, Europe's mission to the red planet, celebrates 10 years in orbit this month. With its 6 on-board instruments, the spacecraft has been monitoring all aspects of the Martian environment, from the subsurface to the upper atmosphere and beyond to its 2 tiny moons. This has provided an in-depth analysis of the history of the planet with some notable highlights along the way.
One of the most important findings was the quantity and composition of ice at the North and South Polar Regions. Another of the mission's most intriguing and debated observations has been the detection of methane in the planet's atmosphere, leading to an intense debate as to its potential source. Volcanic activity has also been detected as recently as a few billion years ago, leading to speculation that they may still be active today.
And finally, to mark the mission's 10-year anniversary, ESA is releasing comprehensive mineralogical maps of the planets surface, making it possible to derive the entire history of Mars as encoded in the minerals on its surface.