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Mars Express – The first mission to the Red Planet

  • Launched in 2003
  • The first European mission to Mars
  • Discovered water on the planet
  • Airbus Defence and Space-led team designed and built the satellite

European Space Agency (ESA) launched its first mission to Mars in 2003. Mars Express has given scientists an entirely new view of the Earth's intriguing neighbour, and is still helping to answer fundamental questions about the geology, atmosphere, surface environment, history of water and potential for life on the Red Planet. An on-board ‘webcam’ captured 3D colour images of water ice and carbon dioxide ice in the planet’s south polar region, which is probably the orbiter’s most significant discovery.

Designed and built by Airbus Defence and Space-led team, the ESA’s first Mars orbiter will provide an important help when the second orbiter, ExoMars, arrives at the Red Planet in October 2016.

Airbus Defence and Space also designed and manufactured the surface lander Beagle 2, which was unfortunately lost after its release, and supplied the on-board camera, the propulsion system and the lander’s heat shield and thermal system.