Mars Express launched and has been orbiting the Red Planet since 2003. The orbiter is imaging Mars’ surface, mapping its minerals, identifying the composition and circulation of its tenuous atmosphere, probing beneath its crust, and exploring how various phenomena interact in the Martian environment.
The spacecraft’s main camera, HRSC, has revealed much about Mars’ diverse surface features in the past 20 years. Its images show everything from wind-sculpted ridges and grooves to sinkholes on the flanks of colossal volcanoes to impact craters, tectonic faults, river channels and ancient lava pools.
Today, ESA celebrates 20 years of Mars Express by revealing a stunning image. The photo is a composite created using data from Mars Express’ High-Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC).
HRSC normally photographs Mars’ surface from an altitude of about 300 km – the closest the spacecraft gets to Mars in its elliptical orbit – with the resulting images covering areas about 50 km across. However, the mosaic presented here uses a slightly different approach. To view the planet more widely, HRSC gathered 90 images at higher altitudes (of 4000 to 10 000 km), thus capturing areas of around 2500 km wide. These images were then put together to form a full global view.