The European Space Agency announced Wednesday its Mars Express spacecraft will monitor NASA’s Phoenix lander as it makes its way to Mars.
The ESA said the plan sets an example of international cooperation and interplanetary networking.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration said Phoenix, which lifts off Saturday, is to land on Mars next spring in a search of conditions favorable for past or present life.
At NASA’s request, the ESA’s Mars Express spacecraft will monitor Phoenix’s descent and landing. The critical part of the descent lasts about 13 minutes, during which the probe will transmit a continuous stream of information to two of NASA’s satellites already orbiting the Red Planet.
NASA requested the ESA use its Mars Express spacecraft that’s been in orbit around Mars since 2003 to also monitor Phoenix’s descent and landing.
The ESA said Mars Express was selected since, in principle, its elliptical orbit makes it possible for the spacecraft to have a continuous view of the lander and to communicate with it for longer periods of time.
The ESA said it’s possible its spacecraft will continue to communicate with Phoenix during its entire 90-day mission.