Twenty-year-old Mars probe gets an update for better data

A team of space scientists has updated the software of the Marsis measuring instrument aboard the 2003 Mars Express spacecraft. Thanks to the update, the probe can transmit more and better data.

The software update was developed by the Italian Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica (INAF) and implemented by the European Space Agency (ESA). It will ensure that unnecessary data is no longer stored when measurements of the Mars surface by the Marsis instrument and that the working memory of that instrument becomes full less quickly. “By banning data we don’t need, Marsis can run five times longer,” according to Andrea Cicchetti, manager at INAF. “We can also record a much larger area with each measurement.”

The space scientists hope to receive more qualitative data from Marsis with this update. They want to use the instrument as soon as possible to investigate the region around the south pole of Mars, because they have already found traces of liquid water there in the past.

Marsis stands for Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding. The instrument has been used since 2003 to analyze the Martian surface and find out whether there are traces of water on Mars. The instrument transmits radio waves at a low frequency to Mars. Some of those waves pass through the Martian surface and are not reflected until they hit a new layer in the subsurface. Using those reflected signals, the scientists can determine which materials are beneath the Martian surface.

Mars Express probe