The First Ever ‘Live Stream’ From Mars is Happening This Week

The European Space Agency (ESA) will broadcast the first ever live stream from Mars — showing new images every 50 seconds as they come in from the Mars Express spacecraft.

However, given Mars is approximately 187 million miles away; it will take 18 minutes for an image to travel from the Red Planet to the feed here on Earth. While it’s not 100 percent “live” it’s as close as science allows for.

“To celebrate the 20th birthday of ESA’s Mars Express, you’ll have the chance to get as close as it’s currently possible to get to Mars,” reads the ESA announcement.

“Tune in to be amongst the first to see new pictures roughly every 50 seconds as they’re beamed down directly from the Visual Monitoring Camera (VMC) on board ESA’s long-lived but still-highly-productive Martian orbiter.”

Mars Express
Artist’s impression of Mars Express with an actual photo of Mars behind it.

The Mars Express mission has been running for almost 20 years and the equipment is getting outdated. The live stream has never been attempted before so the team is hoping for the best.

“This is an old camera, originally planned for engineering purposes, at a distance of almost three million kilometers [1,864,114 miles] from Earth — this hasn’t been tried before and to be honest, we’re not 100 percent certain it’ll work,” says James Godfrey, Spacecraft Operations Manager at ESA’s mission control center in Darmstadt.

The ESA points out that most observations and data gathered by extraterrestrial spacecraft are taken when they are not in direct contact with Earth. Either because it is on the other side of a planet or its antenna is pointing away from Earth.

This is not a problem because the data these spacecraft gather are stored and transmitted at a later time or date when it is in an optimal spot.

A photo stack of the Red Planet taken by the Mars Express

For the VMC camera onboard Mars Express, scientists will “downlink” and process the images every couple of days and release the images on Flickr.

Previous Live Streams From Space

Live footage from space is exceedingly rare. Last year, NASA’s DART mission where the space agency intentionally crashed into an asteroid was broadcast live.

The most famous of all space live streams was the Apollo 11 mission which live broadcast humanity’s first-ever steps on the surface of the Moon.

How Can I Watch The Live Stream From Mars?

The Mars live stream will happen for an hour on Friday (June 2) starting at 11:45 Eastern Time. It will be broadcast on the ESA’s YouTube channel which is embedded at the top of this page.

Image credits: ESA.