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CNR: Alamanacco della Scienza


N. 19 - 5 dic 2012
ISSN 2037-4801

International info   a cura di Cecilia Migali


Fostering Curiosity: Mars Express relays rocky images

For the first time, Esa's Mars orbiter has relayed scientific data from Nasa's Curiosity rover on the Red Planet's surface. The data included detailed images of 'Rocknest3' and were received by Esa's deep-space antenna in Australia.

It was a small but significant step in interplanetary cooperation between space agencies. Early on the morning of 6 October, Esa's Mars Express looked down as it orbited the planet, lining up its lander communication antenna to point at Curiosity far below on the surface. For 15 minutes, the Nasa rover transmitted scientific data up to the Esa satellite. A few hours later, Mars Express slewed to point its high-gain antenna toward Earth and began downlinking the precious information to the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany, via the Agency's 35 m-diameter antenna in New Norcia, Australia. The data were immediately made available to Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California for processing and analysis, proving again that Nasa's amazing new rover can talk with Europe's veteran Mars orbiter.

"Esa-Nasa cooperation at Mars is a continuing success, and comes after both sides have worked diligently for a number of years to set technical and engineering standards to enable sharing data between spacecraft, networks and ground stations", says Mars Express Spacecraft Operations manager Michel Denis. "Exploring Mars is a huge challenge, and space agencies are working to boost cooperation and mutual support for current and upcoming missions. It's the way of the future".

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