Mars Express on course The Age

European space officials said the Mars Express craft was “perfectly on course” toward the Red Planet, giving them confidence for a critical Christmas Day manoeuvre to fire it into orbit – key to Europe’s first mission to explore whether life ever existed on the planet. In preparation, mission control in the west German city of Darmstadt sent the first orbit-related commands to the craft. The mission’s other component is a probe that is due to touch down on Mars early December 25 European time as well.