Public Lecture

"Mars: New Opportunities and Challenges for European Space Science"


Michael McKay

European Space Agency, ESTEC, The Netherlands

Thursday 1st April 2004
20:00 in The Rotunda Lecture Theatre
St Patrick's Trian, Armagh

MARS Express is the European Space Agency's first Planetary Mission and the first Flexi-mission, executed under tight schedule and demanding financial conditions. Built and launched within five years and with a fixed launch date, Mars Express successfully completed its seven month journey to Mars on Christmas day. Equipped with a comprehensive set of instruments to perform a detailed analysis of the planet's surface, atmosphere and sub-surface structure, it has already started to deliver exciting science within the first months of operation. With the deployment of the subsurface radar in April 2004 it promises to take the search for water to new depths!

The lecture will discuss Mars, the fasination the earthlings have for it, and, in presenting the challenges and first achievements of ESA's Mars mission, will speculate on the answers to such questions as: Where did all the water go? Is there life on Mars? and Who are the Martians, really?

Michael McKay was born and grew up in Belfast. Educated at the Queen's University, Belfast, he graduated with a BSc (Hons) in Aeronautical Engineering and an Msc in Computer Science. After initially working in the field of Cosmic Ray Physics and then High Energy Astrophysics at the European Space Research & Technology Centre in Holland, he moved to the European Space Agency's Mission Control in Germany. Over the last twenty years he has been invovled in numerous space missions, from probing the depths of our universe millions of light years away to closely monitoring our own fragile environment. He is presently the Flight Operations Director for ESA's Lunar and Mars Missions.

All events are free of charge, however, owing to limited space, numbers may be restricted. Therefore, if you or groups with which you are involved are planning to attend one of these functions, please contact the Armagh Observatory as soon as possible in order to obtain your free tickets. For tickets and further details, please write, telephone or send an e-mail to: Mrs Aileen McKee, Armagh Observatory, College Hill, Armagh BT61 9DG; Tel: 028-3752-2928; e-mail:

Last Revised: 2010 February 22nd