For one day only, you can “get as close as it’s currently possible” to Mars. Here’s how.

If you’ve ever wanted to get a closer look at Mars, 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.” 

To mark 20 years of ESA’s Mars Express, the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) team has produced a new global colour mosaic: Mars as never seen before. The mosaic reveals the planet’s surface colour and composition in spectacular detail.

ESA/DLR/FU Berlin/G. Michael

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 get as close as it’s currently possible” to Mars, the agency said. During the live stream, new images 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.” 

ESA's Mars Express Returns Images Of Echus Chasma
In this handout image supplied by the European Space Agency (ESA) on July 16, 2008, The Echus Chasma, one of the largest water source regions on Mars, is pictured from ESA’s Mars Express. 

ESA via Getty Images

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 exploring its atmosphere 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. 

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