Welcome to the Main Control Room at the European Space Agency (ESA)'s European Space Operations Centre (ESOC), Darmstadt, Germany.
Since its creation in 1967, ESOC has planned missions and operated more than 50 satellites including Mars Express, ESA's first visit to the Red Planet.
On board, an orbiter payload of seven instruments including the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding (MARSIS), developed by the University of Rome, Italy, in partnership with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, California, and constructed by Alenia Spazio, Italy, whose two 20 metre and one 7 metre long antenna booms will send low-frequency radio waves towards the planet, which will be reflected from any surface they encounter. For most, this will be the surface, but a significant fraction will travel through the crust to be reflected at sub-surface interfaces between layers of different material, including water or ice.
At the date and time of the shoot, Thursday, 16th June, 2005, 10:45 CEST, the Flight Control Team await confirmation from Mars Express that the second 20 metre boom has been successfully deployed (a mock up of a section of boom is visible immediately below the central bank of wall mounted displays). The complete success of the operation was announced shortly afterwards at 14:00 CEST, when all tests on the spacecraft systems had been completed.
With the news on Wednesday, 22nd June, 2005, that the non-critical third boom, designed to correct some roughness effects on the radio waves, has been successfully deployed and that MARSIS has undergone its first check-out and is ready to start operations, in the words of Professor David Southwood, ESA's Science Programme Director, "ESA's Mars Express is now well and truly one of the most important scientific missions to Mars to date".
Special thanks to Alan Smith, Head of ESOC Flight Operations and Mars Express Flight Operations Director, Alan Moorhouse, Deputy Spacecraft Operations Manager and Jocelyne Landeau-Constantin and Bettina Braunstein, ESA Media Relations.