Red Encounter

Mars Express was successfully launched from Baikonur at 17:45 GMT

Image courtesy ESA/STARSEM-S CORVAJA 2003

Ferrari blasts into the record books with Mars Express
2 June 2003

At 19.45 CET on 2 June 2003, Ferrari began its fantastic journey to the Red Planet in spectacular style - on board Mars Express, the first European mission to Mars.

The spacecraft was successfully launched from Baikonur in Kazakhstan this evening on board a Soyuz/Fregat launcher. It is now reaching its cruising speed of up to 10 800 kilometres per hour. At such a speed, the journey to Mars will take just six months, with Mars Express arriving at the Red Planet on Christmas Day.

The mission is a first for Europe and for Ferrari. Ferrari agreed to provide the symbol of its success - a sample of its famous red paint - inside FRED, a specially constructed glass globe. This globe was attached to the inside of the spacecraft. FRED has been designed to withstand the extreme motions during the launch and the extreme temperatures it will encounter on its exciting journey through space.

The progress of the first fully European mission will be watched by millions of people worldwide. Just like a Ferrari F1 racing car, Mars Express is equipped with technology that is second to none. Using this technology, Mars Express aims to solve many of the age-old mysteries about the Red Planet, and ultimately discover whether life exists, or ever existed, on Mars. Studying the secrets of this desolate, inhospitable planet will also help us determine whether Earth is destined to a similar fate in the future.