ESA’s Mars Express celebrates 25,000th orbit around the Red Planet

The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Mars Express spacecraft, which has been orbiting the Red Planet since 2003, has completed its 25,000th orbit around the Red Planet on October 19, 2023.

To celebrate this milestone for Mars Express, ESA released a spectacular view of the Red Planet on March 27, 2024.

ESA’s Mars Express captured a slice of Mars to celebrate its 25 000th orbit around the Red Planet
ESA’s Mars Express captured a slice of Mars to celebrate its 25 000th orbit around the Red Planet. (Image credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin)

The new image covers almost one-quarter of the planet’s surface, focusing the Tharsis region.

The Tharsis region is the largest volcanic region on Mars, and it is the home of Mars’s most famous volcanoes, named Ascraeus Mons (Mons is the Latin word for mountain), Pavonis Mons, Arsia Mons, and Olympus Mons.

Perspective view of Mars’s Tharsis volcanoes
The oblique perspective view of Mars’s Tharsis volcanoes. (Image credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin)

Olympus Mons is the largest volcano in our solar system, standing 22 km tall, whereas Mount Everest is 8.8 km tall here on Earth. To the north of Olympus Mons, a large landslide is seen, called Lycus Sulci.

Mars Express also captured an unexpected visitor, Phobos, when it was passing through to the lower left of the image. Phobos is the largest moon of Mars, which orbits only 3,700 miles (6,000 kilometers) above the Martian surface, whereas our own moon orbits 384,400 km above the Earth’s surface.

Noctis Labyrinthus, a vast region created by deep and steep intersecting canyons, is seen to the lower right of the image. These canyons are up to 30 km wide and 6 km deep. The region spans around 1190 km in length – roughly the length of Italy. 

Some fascinating weather features, like a small band of clouds and ‘lee wave’ clouds, are also seen at the bottom of the image.

The spacecraft’s High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) captured all the above images during its 25,000th orbit around the Red Planet.

Currently, the Mars Express spacecraft is on its extended mission, as its nominal mission was completed after 1 Martian year (687 Earth days) since its arrival in Mars orbit on December 25, 2003. 

Related article: ESA’s Mars Express captures a region where Martian sand dunes meet polar ice

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Ashim

Ashim Chandra Sarkar founded Space & Telescope in 2022. He holds a M.Sc. in physics and has five years of research experience in optical astronomy. His passion for astronomy inspired him to open this website. He is responsible for the editorial vision of spaceandtelescope.com.

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