If you’ve ever wanted to get a, Friday is your chance. For the first time ever, there’s an opportunity to get a live look at the red planet.
For one hour on Friday, the European Space Agency will stream live images of Mars back to Earth. Up until this point, all images seen of the planet are technically of its past, the agency said, as images captured only show it “once light has bounced off it or is sent by orbiters and landers exploring it, and travels to Earth.”
Friday’s event, which is part of a celebration for the 20th birthday of the agency’s Mars Express mission, will be an opportunity “” to Mars, the agency said. During the live stream, from the agency’s Visual Monitoring Camera will be sent roughly every 50 seconds, with it taking about 18 minutes between the time the images are taken from orbit to finally showing up on the screen.
“That’s 17 minutes for light to travel from Mars to Earth in their current configuration, and about one minute to pass through the wires and servers on the ground,” the ESA said. “Note, we’ve never tried anything like this before, so exact travel times for signals on the ground remain a little uncertain.”
There could be some kinks along the way.
The Visual Monitoring Camera, also known as the Mars Webcam, has been used for decades to help research the planet. It resides more than 1.8 million miles away from Earth, and as one researcher said simply, it’s “old.”
“This hasn’t been tried before,” spacecraft operations manager James Godfrey said. “And to be honest, we’re not 100% certain it’ll work.”
However, Godfrey is “optimistic” things will work out.
“Normally, we see images from Mars and know that they were taken days before,” he said. “I’m excited to see Mars as it is now – as close to a martian ‘now’ as we can possibly get!”
ESA’s Mars Express has been orbiting the planet since 2003 and has been taking images, mapping its materials and and composition ever since. The agency says the mission has helped create a “far fuller and more accurate understanding” than ever before.
The live stream will kick off on the European Space Agency’s Youtube channel starting at noon EST on Friday.