What would it be like to approach Mars in a spacecraft? In one of the coolest movies ever, we now know! Using the the Visual Monitoring Camera (VMC) on board Mars Express, science teams put together 600 individual still images to create a movie of descending towards and then moving away from Mars. It shows the spacecraft’s slow descent from high above the planet, speeding up as closest approach is passed and then slowing down again as the distance increases.
Towards the start of the video, the giant Martian volcanoes can be seen followed by the beginning of the ice coverage around the South Pole as the spacecraft crosses over to the night side of the planet. Shortly after emerging back onto the day side of the planet, the beautiful North Pole can be observed, followed by the long climb away from the planet over the equator. Finally, at the end of the movie, the disk of Phobos can be seen crossing from top to bottom of the image.