As the ESA ‘Mars Express’ passed 1,000,000km from the Earth, the first of the NASA backed Mars Rovers is still Earthbound after thunderstorms surround the launch site.
‘Spirit’ and ‘Opportunity’ are scheduled to arrive in January 2004. Each is a golf cart sized explorer specifically designed to examine the geology for past evidence of water.
The end of this year is set to be busy for Mars: Beagle II should arrive at Christmas aboard the Mars Express.
Mars Express and the NASA MER mission have not coincided by chance: A rare proximity between Mars and Earth means more payload and faster transit: the typical journey is down from 9 months to 7.
Both missions also share the same planetfall approach: Airbags. Although it sounds risky its a proven technique and significantly reduces the mass of the landing system.