HomeAstronomy & SpacePLANETARY SCIENCESA close encounter with a mysterious moon

A close encounter with a mysterious moon

Mars Express, a European Space Agency mission, recently had a close encounter with the martian moon Phobos. The 19-year-old water-hunting spacecraft peered beneath the surface of the mysterious moon during the flyby, which took place on September 23, 2022, thanks to the orbiter’s recently upgraded software.

The Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding (MARSIS) instrument on Mars Express, which was instrumental in the discovery of signs of liquid water on Mars, recently received a major software upgrade that allowed it to see beneath the surfaces of Mars and its moon Phobos in greater detail than ever before.

While the instrument was originally designed to study the interior of Mars, a recent software upgrade is allowing it to peer into Phobos’s depths.

According to ESA, the recent flyby of Mars’ larger moon provided the ideal opportunity to test one of the spacecraft’s latest software upgrades.

“During this flyby, we used MARSIS to study Phobos from a distance of 83 kilometres. Getting closer allows us to study its structure in greater detail and identify important features that we would not have seen from a distance. We are confident that in the future, we will be able to use MARSIS from less than 40 kilometres away “Andrea Cicchetti of the Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica (INAF) in Italy spoke about the MARSIS team.

ESA’s Mars Express, launched 19 years ago on June 2, 2003, has spent nearly two decades studying one of our closest planetary neighbours and revolutionising humanity’s understanding of the planet – its history, present, and future.


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