Astronaut's eye view: Mars Express orbiting the Red Planet (w/ Video)

Jun 02, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- This video shows what future astronauts would see from their cockpit: Mars turning below as they sweep around the Red Planet. Last month, ESA's Mars Express snapped images every minute to create a unique video that loops through a complete orbit of Earth's gorgeous neighbour.

Mars holds a special fascination for humans. Its relative proximity and its solid surface make it a tantalising target for exploration. Thanks to this new video from , we can now imagine what it will be like to orbit the some day, possibly searching for a place to land.

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This movie was generated from 600 individual still images captured by the Visual Monitoring Camera (VMC) on board Mars Express during the 8194th orbit on 27 May 2010 between 02:00 and 09:00 UTC (04:00-11:00 CEST) and were transmitted to Earth a few hours later via ESA's 35m New Norcia deep space station in Australia.

Last month, mission controllers commanded the Visual Monitoring Camera (VMC) to acquire an image of Mars every minute during one complete, 7-hour orbit. The VMC is a low-resolution, non-scientific digital camera originally used only to confirm separation of the Mars Express lander in 2003.

The resulting still images have been combined to create a unique video as Mars Express loops between its greatest height above the surface, 10 527 km, to its lowest, at just 358 km, and back again. This is the first such video ever generated from a spacecraft orbiting Mars.

A constellation of giant volcanoes

The giant volcanoes of Mars can be clearly seen at the start of the video, visible as a constellation of dark spots on the desert surface. They are followed by a glimpse of the Argyre Planitia, lying just north of the southern polar circle, before the spacecraft plunges into the darkness of the planet's night side. Daylight returns with a soaring ride over the spiral ices of the North Pole.

Near the beginning and end of the video, as Mars Express slows down during the highest arc of its orbit, Mars can be seen rotating on its axis. At the very end, Phobos passes far beneath Mars Express, and the tiny moon's disc can be seen as a dark circle moving from top to bottom in the movie.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
This movie was generated from 600 individual still images captured by the Visual Monitoring Camera (VMC) on board Mars Express during the 8194th orbit on 27 May 2010 between 02:00 and 09:00 UTC (04:00-11:00 CEST) and were transmitted to Earth a few hours later via ESA's 35m New Norcia deep space station in Australia.

The video clearly illustrates the highly of Mars Express, with the journey around the planet starting slowly at high altitude and gaining speed as the altitude lowers.

It also shows how Phobos orbits Mars as well as numerous geographic features on the surface. The fact that the viewer enters darkness on the night side and comes back out on the morning side (and can see surface features rotating into the light) also shows how night and day are created by a planet's rotation, just like our own dusk and dawn on Earth.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
This animation was generated by Celestia simulation software to show the orbital path of Mars Express during the 8194th orbit on 27 May 2010 between 02:00 and 09:00 UTC (04:00-11:00 CEST). This animation shows how Mars Express travelled around the Red Planet while the Visual Monitoring Camera (VMC) snapped individual still images every minute, which have been used to generate a separate time-compressed video. This simulation shows the timeline of the orbit at top-right of the image and the red line shows the path of Mars Express as it orbits Mars. Inset at bottom-left is the actual pointing of Mars Express, constantly turning to keep the field of view of the VMC camera pointed at the planet.

Seven-hour orbit and 600 raw images

The images used to generate the video, 600 in total, were acquired during the 8194th orbit on 27 May 2010 between 02:00 and 09:00 UTC (03:00-10:00 CEST) and were transmitted to Earth a few hours later via ESA's 35 m-diameter New Norcia deep space antenna in Australia.

This unique video was produced through a cooperative effort between the scientists and mission controllers who care for Express during its regular daily scientific exploration activities.

Explore further: Computer simulation suggests early Earth bombarded by asteroids and comets

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nygiantsrobert
not rated yet Jun 03, 2010
Awesome...