The VMC: An ordinary camera in an extraordinary place!
Welcome back everyone! After being offline for three months while Mars Express passed behind the Sun, the Visual Monitoring Camera (VMC) - known around here affectionately and unofficially as the 'Mars Webcam' - is back in action.
Our newest image sets are live below, and we're steadily getting more comfortable here in our new blog website (click on Full story for more details).
For those of you new to the Mars Webcam, here is a little background:
The Visual Monitoring Camera (VMC) is mounted on Mars Express, ESA's deep-space probe now orbiting the Red Planet. It originally provided simple, low-tech images of Beagle lander separation, and is now back in action as the 'Mars Webcam'. It's not a scientific instrument, but it does provide fantastic views of Mars - including crescent views of the planet not obtainable from Earth.
After our off-line break, we're back and the VMC remains in fine operation - and we're fully established in our new blog site, thanks to the excellent tech gurus on ESA's Web Team in Frascati, Italy (thanks Stefan!).
Here at ESOC, Mars Express Spacecraft Operations Engineer Thomas Ormston has spent the past few weeks working to integrate the blog backend with the Mars Express Mission Control System, and the results speak for themselves - the site runs great!
And get this: VMC images are now captured, stored on board, downloaded (with space-available priority) to ESOC and posted into our blog automatically! Is that cool or what..? :-)
In fact, Thomas says it could even happen that, if no higher-priority data were waiting for download and a ground station pass were to happen immediately after imaging (and one-way signal time notwithstanding), the Mars Webcam pictures could appear right here in the blog just a couple hours after being taken.
As always with VMC, we want to fit around existing Mars Express science and that means the imaging forecast for April 2009 is just two observations. But keep checking back! As May gets going, we've got a packed VMC schedule with observations almost every day.
Send us your stuff
As last year, we are keen to receive copies of your interpretations, reworked images and photo artistry - read more here - and we cordially invite you to download any of our images sets and send us your results. We'll post the best in our public gallery.
It'd also be great to hear from you on the comments under every post here on the blog, so say hello, send your questions and join us on our exploration of Mars with VMC!