MarsExpress/Beagle2 Mission facts and figures

  • ESA Mission
  • MarsExpress launch: 2 June 2003
  • Arrival at Mars: December 2003
  • Orbiter with several instruments
  • Lander Beagle2: 65 kg

Beagle 2

The lander of ESA's Mars Express mission, Beagle 2, was the smallest, most heavily instrumented soft landing spacecraft ever produced. As such it is a possible precursor for other missions for example a network of geophysical stations on Mars or studies of other solar system bodies like Europa, asteroids, Mercury, etc. MCSE team was involved in this project and has delivered micro-cameras for Beagle 2's robotic arm (PAW): a stereoscopic camera composed of two identical units with 48° optics and a micro-camera with specific mechanical interface to realize a microscope.

Micro-cameras features

Micro-camera for Beagle 2 stereo camera with 48° FOV
Microscope head

The main specifications for the cameras of the Mars Express Lander Beagle2 were:

  • low mass (as less as possible);
  • all electronics included, converter, clock, memory, drivers, communication protocol, direct link to Beagle2 common electronics;
  • low power;
  • resistance to the landing shocks;
  • resistance to Mars thermal environment without thermal control;
  • operation at ~ -120°C.

The imagers for the "Stereo Camera System" are equipped with filter wheels for multi-spectral imaging and a specific lens for close-up images.

 Micro-cameras for stereo system:

  • Mass of one micro-camera with optics: 98g
  • Operating temperature: -120°C to +30°C
  • Power consumption: 1.5W

Micro-camera features for microscope: 

  • Mass of the micro-camera head: 85g
  • Operating temperature: -120°C to +30°C
  • Power consumption: 1.5W
Stromatolite. (Carboniferous age, Wyoming) (close-up view on the bottom)

The pictures were obained by the Beagle2 micro-camera and demonstrate the ability to see biogenic fabrics using the micro-cameras images. Characteristic textures of rocks and of fossil microbial fabrics are generally well discernible in images taken with the Beagle 2-type cameras. Characteristic features often are visible only when using the close-up lens. This increase in resolution would have allowed a much more detailed interpretation of the petrology of rocks than was possible during earlier missions.