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Mars Express spacecraft
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Mars Express spacecraft

January 17, 2005
Mars Express will leave Earth for Mars in late May or early June 2003 when the positions of the two planets make for the shortest possible route, a condition that occurs once every twenty-six months. The intrepid spacecraft will start its six-month journey from the Baikonur launch pad in Kazakhstan onboard a Russian Soyuz/Fregat launcher. Once Mars Express has escaped the Earth and is on course for the Red Planet, it will begin the six-month interplanetary cruise at a velocity of 10 800 km/h relative to Earth. Five days before arrival in December 2003, Mars Express will eject the Beagle 2 lander, which will make its own way to the correct landing site on the surface. The orbiter will then manoeuvre into a highly elliptical capture orbit, from which it can move into its operational near-polar orbit.


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