While NASA's twin rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, garner all the headlines, the European Space Agency's satellite, Mars Express, is poised to deliver just as much science, including important clues in the hunt for Martian life, at a far lower price. NASA spent more than $800 million on its project, while Mars Express cost a mere €150 million, or about $190 million.

Despite the relatively small price tag, Mars Express is well equipped. It is using its cameras, spectrometers, and radar to get a more thorough global picture of Mars. “The attention span has gone on to other things,” Agustin Chicarro, the lead project scientist on the Mars Express mission, told The Scientist. “But we'll be up there for at least 2 Earth years. That's going to provide a lot of data.”

There are already two camera satellites floating above Mars: Mars Global Surveyor and Odyssey. Mars...

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