People go live all the time. Concerts, sports, and news reports blast out in real time. They hit computer, phone, and TV screens across the globe. Interviews and video game playing? You can watch those too, with the press of a button. On June 2, there was a new star. The planet Mars went (nearly) live!
The European Space Agency (ESA) did this with its Mars Express spacecraft. That craft has now been in space for 20 years! It celebrated by giving Mars its first livestream.
For Mars, going live isn’t easy. In fact, the Red Planet is so far from Earth that we can’t actually see it perfectly live. It takes time for images to travel the huge distance between Mars and Earth. On top of that, the craft has to be in a certain position to send images to Earth. So it often sends the information days later.
To make Mars’s livestream, the ESA sent images from a Mars Express camera straight to the screens of viewers. The camera posted pictures every 50 seconds. The images traveled about 200 million miles (321 million km) back to Earth. That took nearly 17 minutes. Then, it took another minute or so for the images to move through wires. Still, this was the closest to a Mars livestream that’s ever been seen!
The stream lasted for an hour. The photos showed Mars, half in darkness, move across the screen. No one is on the spacecraft. But “if you were currently sitting on board Mars Express, this is what you would be seeing,” said ESA expert Simon Wood.
James Godfrey is a leader at ESA’s mission control center. That’s in Darmstadt, Germany. “Normally, we see images from Mars and know that they were taken days before,” Godfrey said. “I’m excited to see Mars as it is now — as close to a Martian ‘now’ as we can get!”
Updated June 5, 2023, 5:02 P.M. (ET)
By Ashley Morgan