Last updated on April 20, 2014 at 0:02 EDT
How easily will spacecraft on Mars talk to Earth
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How easily will spacecraft on Mars talk to Earth?

January 17, 2005
A visualisation of Mars, created from spacecraft imagery. ESA's first mission to the Red Planet is Mars Express, planned for launch in June 2003. It comprises an orbiter carrying seven scientific instruments to probe the planet's atmosphere, structure and geology, including a search for evidence of hidden water. The main spacecraft will also release the UK's small Beagle 2 lander to gather and test rock and soil samples on the surface. As well as its science objectives, Mars Express will also provide relay communication services between the Earth and landers deployed on the surface by other nations, thus forming a centrepiece of the international effort in Mars exploration. Mars Express is ESA's first 'Flexible' (F-class) mission. It is a pilot project for new methods of funding and managing ESA space missions, built more quickly and launched at a much lower cost than any previous mission of a similar nature.