OMEGA: 10 years in space!
ESA celebrated the 10 year anniversary of Mars Express in space, launched on June 2, 2003 from the Baikonour space centre. Mars Express, which is still in operation, is the first planetary space mission of ESA. For the first time, the satellite performed coupled analyses of the various Martian envelopes, from the exosphere and the high atmosphere to surface and subsurface, thanks to six instruments, some sent in space for the first time.
This space mission was successful; it changed major paradigms in understanding the history of Mars. One instrument that has contributed to these findings is OMEGA (PI:IAS), that was developed in cooperation with the LESIA Observatory Paris / Meudon, and with the IFSI Rome and IKI in Moscow.
OMEGA acquires "spectral images" in the visible and near infrared: for each pixel, it gives the spectrum of the reflected sunlight. This gives access to the composition and structure of both the atmosphere (gases, clouds, aerosols) and the surface (minerals, ices and frosts) to a sub-kilometer spatial resolution at a global scale.
With these results, OMEGA has rewritten in depth the history of this planet at all-time scales, from seasonal variations to climatic and geological changes. It shows in particular that Mars had a very old eon, during which water was stable in the vicinity of the surface or on the surface itself, which may have favored the emergence of life; it has also identified sites of major interest for future exobiology exploration.
ESA has focused the 10 year anniversary on the global mineralogical maps obtained by OMEGA data, realized to IAS and recently published in three papers. You can access to these cards, as well as animations and replay of the press conference held at ESOC on June 3 at the following sites:
Carter J., Poulet F., J.-P. Bibring, N. Mangold , S.M. Murchie,Hydrous minerals on Mars as seen by the CRISM and OMEGA imaging spectrometers: Updated global view, J. Geophys. Res. 118, 831-858 (2013).
Ody A., Poulet F., J.-P. Bibring, D. Loizeau, J. Carter, B. Gondet, Langevin Y., Global investigation of olivine on Mars: insights into crust and mantle compositions, J. Geophys. Res. 118, 234-262 (2013).
Ody A., Poulet F., Langevin Y., J.-P. Bibring, G. Bellucci, F. Altieri, B. Gondet, J. Carter, N. Manaud,Global maps of anhydrous minerals at the surface of Mars from OMEGA/MEx, J. Geophys. Res. 117, E00J14, 14 PP. (2012).