Did you miss the Livestream on Mars? Here is the video

By | June 7, 2023

When a mission to Mars reaches 20 years of service, that’s definitely cause for celebration. ESA’s Mars Express celebrated by broadcasting the first live stream of images, sent directly from the Visual Monitoring Camera (VMC) on board the spacecraft. For an hour, it sent images from the Red Planet as close to real time as the speed of light would allow.

The animated gif, above, was created from all the images that dropped during that hour, about 50 seconds apart. There is a short pause in the middle of the animation due to an unexpected thunderstorm at ESA’s ground station in Cebreros, Spain where telemetry could not be received.

The video of the live streaming from Mars on June 2, 2023.

The fact that this camera still works 20 years later, plus the fact that the engineers figured out how to do live streaming, is also something to celebrate. The VMC was originally intended to be just an engineering camera that had only one short-lived job in December of 2003: monitoring the deployment of the Beagle 2 lander. The camera only got a shot of Beagle 2, and after it was successfully deployed , the lander, unfortunately, crashed on the planet’s surface.

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Bye bye Beagle 2 – The only image from the descending lander visual monitoring camera (ESA)

But VMC was an excellent camera, and with such an asset on board, mission engineers have turned it back on. They found that, thanks to its unique location on the spacecraft, it could, for example, capture crescent images of Mars that aren’t obtainable from Earth. In addition, its large field of view also provides global images of Mars, something currently not provided by any other spacecraft.

While this “Mars Webcam” is not a scientific instrument, it does provide fantastic views of Mars.

ESA said that to get an hour-long live view of Mars, the VMC needed a view of the planet at the same time that Mars Express’s antenna could be continuously pointed towards Earth to immediately broadcast the signals. data. Normally, the observations are stored aboard the spacecraft and transferred to Earth in one batch once Mars Express gains visibility over a ground station.

An animation created from images that were sent to Earth, transmitted directly from the Visual Monitoring Camera (VMC) aboard ESA’s long-running Mars Express mission, during a special live data stream from Mars to mark the mission’s 20th anniversary . Credit: ESA.

“Usually, it’s not possible to point spacecraft instruments toward Mars and the communications antenna toward Earth at the same time,” said James Godfrey, Spacecraft Operations Manager for Mars Express. But a few weeks ago, while looking for ideas on how to celebrate the anniversary, we realized that Mars would pass through the VMC’s field of view during a communication pass and the idea was born.

In the animation, you may also notice that just before the point where the connection is lost and there is a break in the images, a small white feature flashes on the edge of Mars. ESA explained that this is not actually on the planet but a speck in part of the sensor which increases the amount of light reaching the pixels in this area. Image processing usually removes such noise and blemishes, but it’s not always possible.

A precedent VMC Image captured on 2023-06-04 at an altitude of 458.75 km above Mars, on Mars Express orbit number 24526. Credit: ESA.

In the animation the south polar cap of Mars is visible and the volcano Rarsi Mons can be seen on the left side of the planet. The southern hemisphere is now approaching winter and Jorge Hernndez Bernal, part of the VMC team, said clouds are common during this season and form as the atmosphere flows over mountains and volcanic slopes.

To see more VMC images from the Mars Express, you can follow alongTwitter feedsfor an archive of Mars images, but for new images find the Mars webcam on FlickrandMastodon.

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