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The First Mars Livestream

Zoe van der Merwe takes you through the historic first ever livestream from Mars, detailing what happened and its significance. 


On June 2nd the European Space Agency (ESA) made history, streaming almost live images of Mars from the Mars Express spacecraft. The images were broadcast on the ESA’s YouTube and Twitter account, showing us earthlings the red planet in a way it has never been seen before.  


The Express orbiter’s Visual Monitoring Camera (VMC), initially used to observe the detachable Beagle-2 lander, was officially turned back on in 2007 as a part of community outreach campaigns that aimed to encourage space enthusiasm. The ESA began posting images of a fuzzy looking Mars to their social media, earning the camera a new nickname, “The Mars Webcam”. The camera, while not designed as a scientific instrument, was then realised by scientists as an ongoing way to monitor the planet. [1]


Most observations and data collected of Mars today occur when the spacecraft cannot directly contact Earth. Images are often taken hours or days prior, stored by the craft until they can be transmitted back to our planet. [2] James Godfrey, the ESA’s spacecraft operations manager at their mission control centre, stated the first of its kind livestream would hence be “as close to a martian ‘now’ as we can possibly get!.”  [3]


New images of the red planet were expected every fifty seconds, however, due to bad weather affecting ground stations, transmissions were delayed and interrupted. [4] Over the course of an hour the VMC was able to record Mars while the Express orbiter’s antenna sent the images back to Earth, roughly eighteen minutes after they were first taken. [5] The “live” stream, while not exactly live, was ground-breaking as it showed the planet moving across consecutive image frames.


Photo of Mars from the Livestream [6]


[1] “Tune in for First Mars Livestream.” The European Space Agency, 31 May 2023, https://www.esa.int/Enabling_Support/Operations/Tune_in_for_first_Mars_livestream


[2] Holcombe, Madeline, and Wattles, Jackie. “See Images from the First Mars Live Stream.” CNN, 2 Jun. 2023, https://edition.cnn.com/2023/06/02/world/mars-live-images-stream-scn/index.html


[3] Ibid. 


[4] Ibid. 


[5] Hrodey, Matt. “First Livestream From Mars Was Charmingly Low-Key.” Discover Magazine, 7 Jun. 2023, https://www.discovermagazine.com/the-sciences/first-livestream-from-mars-was-charmingly-low-key


[6] ESA Operations [@esaoperations]. Photograph of Mars. Twitter, 7 Jun. 2023, 11:22 p.m., https://twitter.com/esaoperations/status/1666435431674552321?cxt=HHwWgoCxocWMr6AuAAAA


[7] Ibid. 


[8] Ibid. 


[9] Ibid.


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