Mars Express Status Report - February 2006
Some of the tests planned for trying to gain additional power margin required for the fall 2006 eclipse season are currently judged by industry as being "risky". An extensive meeting on the topic with ESOC and industry took place in January 2006.
During some so-called "SPICAM SUN" pointings in November 2005, a reduction in solar array power much worse than expected has been observed. Analysis has shown this to be due to an unforeseen shading of part of the solar array by one of the MARSIS antenna booms during a specific attitude.
The Planetary Fourier Spectrometer (PFS) is back in operation after a malfunction was reported a few months ago. The recovery was made possible through using internal instrument redundancy. After switching to the instrument back-up motor (more powerful than the primary one), the instrument is able to produce science data as before. Following this recovery activity, PFS has started to routinely acquire new measurements in early November 2005.
Operations and Archiving
Science operations are proceeding well and planning of future observations is progressing smoothly. Given the reduced availability of New Norcia during early-2006 (because of Venus Express), and the announced (reduced because of MRO) DSN support around May-August 2006, careful planning of science downlink resources will be required.
Further instrument data deliveries were recently made to the mission's data archive, and a new map-based interface was added to the search capabilities of the Planetary Science Archive.
A paper on the ionospheric structure of Mars by the Radio Science team has recently been published in Science.
A very successful press conference, mostly highlighting the acceptance of one OMEGA article by Nature and two MARSIS articles by Science, was held at HQ on 30 November.