The European Space Agency (ESA) commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Mars Express spacecraft on Friday by displaying images sent by the spacecraft approximately every 50 seconds.
Given the relative positions of Earth and Mars yesterday, it took approximately 17 minutes for signals from the spacecraft to reach our planet.
This meant that the live broadcast that occurred on Friday stretched the definition of the term “live” somewhat. Nonetheless, this is the first time that near-instant images from Mars have been shown to the public.
The European Space Agency broadcast the first Mars “live” transmission.
“Oh, here it is! This is the first image from Mars, and it’s the closest you’ll ever get to the red planet unless you voyage there yourself. “This is Mars 16 minutes ago,” a commentator on ESA’s live stream said as the first images appeared shortly after the live stream began on June 2 at 9.15 PM IST.
Mars Express collects the majority of its observations when it is not in direct communication with Earth. This typically occurs for one of two reasons: either the spacecraft is on the opposite side of the Sun or Mars, or its antennas are pointed away from Earth when it is conducting observations. The recorded version of the live stream is available below.
Every couple of days, the Visual Monitoring Camera on the Mars Express takes images of the planet and transmits them to Earth, where they are processed by ESA and made public.
This system is ideally suited for scientific missions, as astronomers can examine the captured data days later. However, transmitting live images back to the planet is a difficult and technically remarkable endeavor.
This is why there have only been a few instances of obtaining live images from outer space throughout history. The breathtaking live videos transmitted by Apollo missions are excellent examples. And more recently, the DART mission where NASA crashed a spacecraft into the asteroid Dimorphos is also an excellent example.