Brussels, 15 Sep 2005
The European Space Agency (ESA) has asked an investigation board to carry out a technical examination of one of the scientific instruments on board Mars Express - the Planetary Fourier Spectrometer (PFS) - which has developed a problem in recent months.
Vibrations induced by spacecraft activities have been suggested as a reason for the malfunction, however no source has yet been identified meaning that other possible causes cannot be fully ruled out.
The investigation board is made up of experts from the Mars Express mission working team, ESA, industry and the Italian Space Agency (ASI). A successful investigation could lead to PFS resuming scientific observations, albeit using modified procedures, but until the team has examined all existing data and taken some additional measurements, ESA says it is too early to speculate on the operational status of the instrument.
'The PFS instrument has performed flawlessly for almost two years, following the launch of Mars Express in June 2003,' reads an ESA statement. 'In this period, the instrument has provided much new information on the global composition and movement of the Martian atmosphere.'
Even if the investigation board concludes that PFS is no longer functional, ESA stresses that the other six instruments onboard the satellite are currently working well and providing new insights into the Red Planet and its evolution.
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