Mars Express was ESA's first mission to Mars, which reached the Red Planet in 2003. Its main scientific objectives are the search for water, the study of the interaction of the solar wind with the upper atmosphere and remote sensing of the surface mineralogy.
Mars Express is equipped with instruments for global high-resolution photogeology (including topography, morphology, paleoclimatology, etc.), high-resolution mineralogical mapping of the Martian surface and the atmospheric composition. It can also detect subsurface structures at km-scale down to the permafrost layer as well as measure the atmosphere-surface interaction. The interaction of the atmosphere with the interplanetary medium is another main research topic. Since the opportunity to reach Mars was very favorable in 2003, space probes from the US do explore the planet at the same time as Mars Express, opening up new possibilities to combine measurements from various spacecraft into a new, better, higher resolution data model of Mars and its environment.
Mars Express data will be made available to a wide variety of researchers and students through regional Recognized Cooperating Laboratories (RCL), which also include the Space Research Institute (IWF) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (AAS) in Graz.
The scientific objective of our Mars Express RCL proposal is to get a better understanding of the chemical and physical processes which lead to the loss of H2O to space, the evaporation of H2O from ice or subsurface layers, the exchange of H2O with the atmosphere and the oxidation capability of Martian dust and surface layers. We established an interdisciplinary team of scientists with expertise in
- Martian atmospheric evolution and non-thermal atmospheric escape processes
- spacecraft antenna calibration
- ice and permafrost research
- mineralogy and geochemistry
- experiments in planetary and space simulation laboratories.
The investigation of the evaporation of water from surface layers and exchange with the Martian atmosphere will enhance our knowledge in Martian atmospheric evolution studies. Our investigations include numerical and laboratory studies of Martian atmospheric-surface-interaction processes such as:
- Development of a numerical three-dimensional exosphere model based on a Monte-Carlo technique to understand atmospheric escape processes.
- Calibration of spacecraft antenna, to improve data evaluation with the help of wire-grid models based on numerical and electromagnetic codes for increasing the scientific return. This could improve results of the Mars Express MARSIS subsurface radar.
- Finding limiting constraints for the oxidation of the Martian surface material
- Theoretical and laboratory studies of kinetics and mechanisms of photo-stimulated oxidation of terrestrial Martian soil analogue material.
- Research on volatile exchange between the Martian soil and the atmosphere by studying terrestrial soil analogue material in a simulated Mars atmosphere as a function of soil properties like temperature variations, thermal conductivity and dust grain studies.
- Laboratory experiments are planned on Martian soil analogue material under Martian atmospheric conditions in the planetary and space simulation chamber of IWF in Graz.
Further information on Mars Express can be found at ESA.