Opening Mars Expo in Euro Space Center

News > Opening Mars Expo in Euro Space Center >

From beginning of March till end of August, a Mars Expo is organized in the Euro Space Center by the Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy, which played an important role in Mars research activities. Looking back to past missions and research is one way, but now the eyes are facing the future where an exciting mission is about to start. The ExoMars 2016 mission, a joint endeavor between ESA and Roscosmos, will depart on March 14th 2016 to the Red Planet, carrying Belgian technology to perform pioneering science: the NOMAD spectrometer. NOMAD is a 3-channel spectrometer suite to conduct a spectroscopic survey of Mars’ atmosphere in the UV, visible and IR spectral ranges, in search for traces of life. The expo was officially opened on March 10th.


Mars research activities
Ever since time immemorial, people have paid much attention to planet Mars. Astrologers of ancient civilizations were fascinated by the planet’s red colour. In various mythologies, Mars symbolized fire and war. Space exploration in the 1960s lead to a major breakthrough in our knowledge of Mars.
The Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy (BIRA-IASB) was formerly involved in several missions, whether successful or less successful, such as Kepler, Phobos, Mars 96, ISO, Mars Express and observation campaigns from the Caucasus. BIRA-IASB is currently engaged in Exomars 2016.
BIRA-IASB scientists have thus played an important role in the study of our neighbouring planet. All this research will be presented during the Mars Expo.
Also OIP Sensor Systems has played its role in the Mars Exploration. OIP delivered a monitoring camera (VMC – Visual Monitoring Camera) for Mars-Express. Its goal was to monitor ESA’s Beagle lander separation and its early descent phase to the Martian surface. Unfortunately, the contact with the lander was lost, but the pictures taken by the VMC demonstrated that the Beagle descended according to the correct trajectory. Years later, the Beagle was discovered on the Martian surface in the predicted region. The small camera was given a second life as it was turned into the Mars Webcam, producing nice images of the Red Planet that are used for scientific and educational purposes (more info:


In Search of Traces of life on Mars with NOMAD onboard Exomars 2016

    Establishing if life ever existed on Mars is one of the outstanding questions of our time. To address this important goal, the European Space Agency (ESA) has established the ExoMars programme to investigate the Martian environment and to demonstrate new technologies paving the way for a future Mars sample return mission in the 2020's. Exomars is a joint endeavor between the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) to the Red planet.

NOMAD (Nadir and Occultation for MArs Discovery), part of the TGO, is a 3-channel spectrometer suite to conduct a spectroscopic survey of Mars’ atmosphere in the UV, visible and IR spectral ranges. The spectrometer covers the infrared (2.2-4.3 µm) and the ultraviolet-visible (0.2-0.65 µm) spectral regions.
NOMAD offers an integrated instrument combination of a flight-proven concept (SO/LNO are based on SOIR on Venus Express), and innovations based on existing and proven instrumentation, that will provide mapping and vertical profile information at high spatio-temporal resolution.

How does light turns into science? The working principle of the NOMAD spectrometer will be explained using several models. The light will guide you through Belgian Technology.
NOMAD was built by an international consortium led by IASB-BIRA as Principle Investigator and OIP Sensor Systems as Industrial Prime. Lambda-X was subcontractor.


Count-down to launch …

In the cleanroom facilities at the Baikonur Cosmodrome (Kazakhstan), the ExoMars Spacecrafts have been prepared for launch. The launch of the Exomars2016 is foreseen on March 14th 2016. 7 months later, ExoMars hopefully arrives at Mars in October 2016. Science operations are planned only in 2017 …

Press event …

A press event to officially open the Mars Expo and to put the spotlight on the NOMAD instrument onboard Exomars 2016 was held on March 10th, 2016 in the Euro Space Center. In presence of the NOMAD teams from BIRA-IASB and OIP Sensor Systems, the press was introduced in the Mars Exploration and in particular on the ExoMars programme, from which the first mission is ready to be launched.


Press releases (TV, journals, websites, etc):
 >Eén – de redactie (link)
 >RTBF (link)
 >RTL-Info Espace: (link)
 >TV Lux (link)
 >L'Echo (link)
 >Karrewiet (link)
 >Knack (link)


About Mars Expo:
From March till End of August 2016 at the Euro Space Center.
Address: Devant les Hêtres 1, 6890 Transinne

About OIP:
OIP Sensor Systems was founded in 1919 and has since always played a pioneering role in emerging electro-optic technologies with main activities in defense market, and since the early 1980’s also in the space market, with instruments flying on Spacelab, XMM, Cluster II, Mars-Express, Venus-Express, Integral, Rosetta, Envisat, Meteosat, Meteosat Second Generation, Herschel-Planck, ExoMars, the Proba-missions (Proba-1, Proba-II and Proba-V).

About Euro Space Center:

Euro Space Center is a science museum and educational tourist attraction located in Transinne (Libin), near Redu in Belgium. It is devoted to space science and astronautics.The centre includes simulators of space flight and micro-gravity. It is the home of the only full-scale mock-up of a U.S. Space Shuttle existing in Europe, named Amicitia.

About BIRA:
The Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy (BIRA-IASB) (Dutch: Belgisch Instituut voor Ruimte-Aëronomie - BIRA, French: Institut d'Aéronomie Spatiale de Belgique - IASB) is a Belgian federal scientific research institute. Created in 1964, its main tasks are research and public service in space aeronomy, which is the physics and chemistry of the atmosphere of the Earth and other planets, and of outer space. The scientists rely on ground-based, balloon-, air- or space-borne instruments and computer models.


For more information:
Contact Lieve De Vos, Director Space Department, +32 55 333 836, e-mail
OIP Sensor Systems, Westerring 21, B-9700 Oudenaarde