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MARSIS (Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding) is a low frequency, pulse-limited radar sounder and altimeter used on the ESA Mars Express mission. It features ground-penetrating radar capabilities, which uses synthetic aperture techniques and a secondary receiving antenna to isolate subsurface reflections. [1]


On May 4, 2005, Mars Express deployed the first of its two 20-metre-long radar booms for the MARSIS experiment. At first the boom didn't lock fully into place; however, exposing it to sunlight for a few minutes on May 10 fixed the glitch. The second 20 m boom was successfully deployed on June 14. Both 20 m booms were needed to create a 40 m dipole antenna for MARSIS to work; a less crucial 7-meter-long monopole antenna was deployed on June 17. The radar booms were originally scheduled to be deployed in April 2004, but this was delayed out of fear that the deployment could damage the spacecraft through a whiplash effect. Due to the delay it was decided to split the four week commissioning phase in two parts, with two weeks running up to July 4 and another two weeks in December 2005.

The deployment of the booms was a critical and highly complex task requiring effective inter-agency cooperation ESA, NASA, Industry and public Universities.


Nominal science observations began during July 2005.[2][3][4]


  1. ^ MARSIS instrument home page
  2. ^ Glitch strikes Mars Express's radar boom - space - May 9, 2005 - New Scientist
  3. ^ Mars Express's kinky radar straightened out - space - May 12, 2005 - New Scientist
  4. ^ ESA Portal - Mars Express radar ready to work