Mars Webcam Provides Astronaut-like View of Red Planet

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.

Amazing! Enjoy.

Source: ESA

6 Replies to “Mars Webcam Provides Astronaut-like View of Red Planet”

  1. “This is a private video. If you have been sent this video, please make sure you accept the sender’s friend request.”

    Any way around this?

  2. This is the kinda photography we need!
    One of these for every planet in the solar system, high res movies of the winds of Jupiter, the rings of Saturn, and even our own little Earth.

    Watching a sphere rotate changes the way you think about things, it’s different from still images!

  3. Great to see these images from a camera that was at one time (2003) shut off and left unused. From the VMC site:

    “To verify the correct separation and trajectory of the lander, the VMC (Visual Monitoring Camera) – a basic optical monitoring camera – was installed on the orbiter to image the retreating Beagle, which was successfully done in December 2003 (unfortunately, Beagle was later declared lost). This was the only use of the VMC camera prior to 2007. ”

    “In 2007, the Mars Express Flight Control Team based at ESA’s European Space Operations Centre (ESOC), Darmstadt, Germany, began a test campaign to see whether the camera could be used to image Mars.”

    “It wasn’t even known if the camera would function at all after over three years of inactivity in deep space. But the VMC did, indeed, come back to life and the results to date have been very encouraging. Throughout 2007, the team ran a test campaign to verify the camera’s capabilities, followed by fine-tuning to find the optimal parameters for Mars imaging.”

    “The task was made more challenging due to long periods, particularly during eclipse season, when on-board memory, downlink slots or command uplink time weren’t available due to higher priority demands.”

    October and November 2007 saw the first regular operations, with observations occurring approximately every three days. VMC observations are now routinely inserted into the Mars Express planning cycle, on a strict non-interference, time-available basis with respect to formal payload activities.”

    “VMC activities are unique in that the camera is operated by the Flight Control Team, and not a team of scientists. This gives operations engineers, particularly junior members, a chance to learn and practise command generation, planning, and other skills normally done at the Science Operations Centre.”

    Anyone with an interest can download and manipulate the raw images and are encouraged to share their results with the camera team ( at least one has contributed a self-produced video compilation similar to the one here). The Mars Express VMC blog has many more images and links explaining the story of the VMC camera:

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