After a lot of work, the Mars Express Flight Control Team here at ESA/ESOC have got the Visual Monitoring Camera (VMC) back in operation. :-)
As you know, the VMC is mounted on Mars Express. In 2003, it provided simple, low-tech images of Beagle lander separation, and this completed its original operational role.
While it's not a scientific instrument, it does provide fantastic views of Mars - including crescent views of the planet not obtainable from Earth. VMC's wide field of view also provides global images of Mars - something that is not currently provided by any other spacecraft.
In 2007, the Mars Express Flight Control Team began a test campaign to see whether the camera could be used to image Mars. ((It wasn't even known if the camera would function at all after over three years of inactivity in deep space.)) But the VMC did, indeed, come back to life and the results to date have been very encouraging.
We plan to publish the new "VMC minisite" on Friday, 22 August, around 15:00 CEST. This mail is being sent to a select group of about a dozen bloggers, space writers and media as advance notice, and I hope you will plan to surf by to take a look at the results. Furthermore, we need your help!
Help us with the VMC
- VMC activities are unique in that the camera is operated by the Flight Control Team on a time-available basis (and not by a team of scientists).
- Starting Friday, images from the VMC (we call it the 'Mars Webcam') will be made available via the ESA website as rapidly as possible and whenever we have something worth showing - on the understanding that the VMC project is strictly a lowest-priority, "as available" activity.
- Open invitation for image feedback:: You can assist the Mars Express team with additional processing of the raw image data files as well as interpretation: What do you see? What part of the Mars surface is being shown? Can you identify any geographical features? What regions of the atmosphere or atmospheric components do you see?
- It would be fabulous if you would help spread word of the new site and encourage your readers to visit, enjoy the image galleries and take part, if they can!
((We would be delighted to receive copies of any good results that you get - either processed images or interpretations (more details on the site) - and we hope you'll allow us to publish the best submissions.))