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ESA will broadcast live from Mars today

Mars Express has been exploring the Red Planet closely for two decades
(photo: ESA)

Today at 19:00 the European Space Agency (ESA) will broadcast live from the orbit of the Mars Express device. The event, dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the launch of the station, will last one hour.

The broadcast will show an image in near real time – with a delay of 18 minutes. 17 minutes are needed to transmit the signal to Earth and another 1 minute to broadcast it through ground servers and cables.

Mars Express with the Beagle 2 lander took off from Baikonur on June 2, 2003 and arrived in Mars orbit in December of that year. Beagle 2 landed on Mars, but communication with it was not established, possibly due to damage to the solar panels and communications antenna. At the same time, Mars Express went into normal mode and began to study the planet with the help of seven of its scientific instruments.

The station has achieved a lot in two decades. For example, she was able to detect methane in the Martian atmosphere, map the composition of ice caps near the poles, and possibly discover an underground lake near the South Pole of Mars.

The video will be broadcast live from the VMC (Visual Monitoring Camera), originally designed to control the undocking of Beagle-2. After the failure of the lander, the VMC was shut down, but subsequently turned back on to take pictures for scientific and educational purposes.

ESA specialists improved the algorithms for processing images from the camera, turning it into a full-fledged tool. ESA took several months to prepare today’s broadcast, including developing tools to quickly publish VMC images to the web.



“This is an old camera, originally designed for engineering purposes, to work at a distance of 3 million kilometers from Earth. We haven’t tested this yet and, frankly, we’re not 100% sure it will work,” said James Godfrey, head of spacecraft operations at ESA’s Mission Control Center in Darmstadt, Germany.

“But I’m quite optimistic. Usually we see pictures from Mars and know they were taken a few days ago. Glad to see Mars as it is now – as close to the Martian ‘now’ as possible!, added Godfrey.

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