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Europeans To Launch Mars Mission

March 30, 1999

PARIS (AP) _ The European Space Agency plans to send a mission to Mars to study the red planet, officials said Tuesday.

The Mars Express satellite will try to determine why the once wet and warm planet became cold and dry some 3.5 billion years ago, said Augustin Chicarro, the ESA official in charge of the scientific part of the mission. Shortly before it reaches Mars, the satellite will release a probe that will measure the surface and take samples from rocks as well as other surface materials.

Mars Express is expected to reach the planet in June 2003, six months after it is launched.

A high-resolution camera will provide precise images of the planet and will ``give us the impression of being geologists working on Mars,″ said Marcello Coradina, another ESA official.

The Mars Express is one of several space ships scheduled to travel to Mars in the next century.

A Japanese satellite, the Nozomi, is expected to reach Mars in 2004 and a French probe in 2005 hopes to place a network meteorological and geophysical stations on the surface. The same year, France’s National Center for Space Studies in collaboration with NASA will bring back further surface samples.

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