ESA Celebrates Mars Express Success with Live Imagery Broadcast

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of its Mars Express mission, scientists at the European Space Agency broadcast live imagery from the orbiter. Credit: ESA

The European Space Agency celebrated the 20th anniversary of its Mars Express mission by broadcasting an hour of live imagery from the orbiter.

Mars Express, launched in 2003, orbits Mars at an altitude of about 200 miles. Designed to create mosaic photographs of 30-square-mile areas of Mars, the orbiter has sent still imagery of the planet that scientists have used to accurately map the Martian surface. On June 2, scientists used downlink stations around Earth to broadcast a constant stream of wide-angle images, delivering live video of Mars.

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of its Mars Express mission, European Space Agency scientists used the orbiter to broadcast an hour of livestreamed imagery from the spacecraft. Credit: European Space Agency.

“Making this happen was no easy feat,” the agency said. “To get a one-hour live view of Mars, the spacecraft’s (camera) needed a view of the planet at the same time that (the spacecraft’s) antenna could continuously face Earth to immediately stream the data home. Normally, observations are stored onboard the spacecraft and ‘downlinked’ to Earth in a batch once Mars Express gets visibility on a ground station.”

Despite a single glitch caused by a rainstorm that hampered a satellite monitoring station in Spain, the video view showed clear images of the planet as its southern reaches enter Martian winter.

“The South Polar cap is apparent in these images, close to the polar night, while the Arsia Mons volcano is present on the left side of the planet,” Mars Express scientist Jorge Hernández Bernal stated. “Orographic clouds are also common during this season, and form as the atmosphere flows up mountains and volcanic slopes.”

— By Tom Roeder,

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