An advanced electron spectrometer is flying aboard the recently launched Mars Express spacecraft to help characterize the planet's upper atmosphere.
Mars Express, launched on June 2, onboard a Soyuz-Fregat rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
Built by researchers at Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), the spectrometer, along with ion composition and energetic neutral atom-imaging components, also will reconstruct Martian history and evolution over the past 3.5 billion years.
"Mars Express could tell researchers what variables are needed to first create, then preserve oceans and atmospheres over geological time," says Dr. David Winningham, an Institute scientist in the SwRI Space Science and Engineering Div.
The Mars Express is designed to carry seven state-of-the-art scientific instruments and one lander to Mars. The plan is to record data for at least one Martian year, or 687 Earth days. The electron spectrometer measures electron flux in the energy range of a few electron volts to 20,000 keV, for the European Space Agency mission. The Swedish Institute of Space Physics in Kiruna, Sweden, led the overall development of analysis instruments in collaboration with researchers from Finland, Italy, England, Germany, and France.