Humans will see the first-ever livestream of the planet Mars on Friday.
The European Space Agency (ESA) will host the livestream through the ESA YouTube channel. Roughly every 50 seconds ESA’s Mars Express orbiter, 11,000 miles from Mars’ surface, will share new images, starting at 11:45 am ET, as it hangs more than 11,000 miles above the Martian surface. The data hurled back to Earth will take 22 minutes to travel about 187 million miles from Mars to Earth.
“This is an old camera, originally planned for engineering purposes, at a distance of almost three million kilometers from Earth – this hasn’t been tried before and to be honest, we’re not 100% certain it’ll work,” James Godfrey, Spacecraft Operations Manager at ESA’s mission control center, stated. “But I’m pretty optimistic. Normally, we see images from Mars and know that they were taken days before. I’m excited to see Mars as it is now – as close to a martian ‘now’ as we can possibly get!”
“Most observations and data gathered by spacecraft are taken during periods when they are not in direct contact with a ground station antenna on Earth,” ESA explains. “Either because of geometry – for example, on the other side of the Sun or Mars — or the spacecraft’s antenna is pointing away from Earth while gathering science data.”
“For science, this is no problem,” ESA continues. “The data is stored on board and beamed down a few hours or even days later, once the spacecraft is in contact with the ground again. What normally happens for the Visual Monitoring Camera on Mars Express, is every couple of days a new batch are ‘downlinked,’ processed and made available to the world.”
Unlike Earth, whose atmosphere is comprised of the elements nitrogen, oxygen, and argon, among others, Mars’ atmosphere is comprised of mostly carbon dioxide with some water vapor. While Earth’s average temperature hovers around 57 degrees Fahrenheit, Mars’ is much colder at roughly -81 degrees Fahrenheit.
A year on Earth takes a little more than 365 days; a year on Mars takes 687 Earth days. But the length of the days is similar; an Earth day takes 23 hours and 56 minutes and a day on Mars takes 24 hours and 37 minutes.
Mars is much smaller than Earth, with a diameter of 4,220 miles. Earth’s diameter is 7,926 miles.
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