Goonhilly Support Crucial as ESA’s Mars Express Passes 1,000 Weeks of Science Operations

27th Feb 2023
Goonhilly Support Crucial as ESA’s Mars Express Passes 1,000 Weeks of Science Operations

Mars Express has reached an incredible feat; 1,000 weeks of science operations. 

The Mars Express orbiter began science operations in 2004, giving the most detailed images we have of the Red Planet, as well as information on the atmosphere. The orbiter has also studied Phobos, a moon of Mars, and crucially found that the environment of Mars may once have been able to harbour life, answering a question humankind has debated for decades.

The mission has involved mineralogical mapping, radar sounding all the way down to the planet’s permafrost, and precise mapping of the composition of the atmosphere. 

Goonhilly said in a Tweet to mark the occasion: “It’s always a pleasure to help support your mission and ‘talk to’ MEX!”

Mars Express by the numbers

The Tweet was in response to ESA, who explained the significance of 1,000 weeks: “That’s 1000 week-long Command Periods (CPs) and 1000 times the control team sent up a batch of instructions to the Mars orbiter, equivalent to 19 years and 2 months of #SciOps.”

From its base in Cornwall, Goonhilly has supported ESA’s missions for decades, including the Gaia and Mars Express missions. In 2022, it was announced that the station would also provide support for NASA’s Artemis programme.

The collaboration has led to some incredible world firsts, and when Goonhilly acquired GHY-6, a “Deep Space Communications Antenna” it was able to receive and analyse new data from the Mars Express spacecraft. On Sunday 11th July 2021 the first images were received from the webcam and have been made available online. The team at Goonhilly rightly made a big deal of operating the world’s first privately owned deep space communications antenna.

Since launch in 2003, the Mars Express mission has taken hundreds of thousands of images and collected crucial data helping with our understanding of Mars. Goonhilly is one of the key partners in the mission, which has no date set to complete operations. 

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