On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the launch of the orbiter march express, the European Space Agency (ESA) has released a sequence of four images of the Earth and the Moon captured from Mars orbit. In the video above, it is possible to observe a little more than half of the monthly movement of the natural satellite around our planet.
The photographs were taken between May 15 and June 2, 2023, when the distance between Earth and Mars ranged from 279,186,624 km to 301,01,265 km. The spacecraft’s High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) has a resolution of approximately 2,570 km per pixel.
To reduce pixel distortion and help correct overexposure due to the strong contrast between the Earth and the Moon, ESA performed image processing. However, it was not possible to correct all the distortions in the photos – as a result, the two celestial bodies appear slightly distorted.
“Pale Blue Dot”
Earth was first described as a “pale blue dot” by scientist Carl Sagan, inspired by an image of the planet captured by NASA’s Voyager 1 in 1990. The photograph prompted the expert to complain about the fact that our planet was the only known world to support life. , and it is therefore incumbent on human beings to be kinder to each other and to preserve the environment.
Three decades later, thousands more images of Earth have been produced by probes sent into the solar system. But Sagan’s message remains – and today it is perhaps more urgent than ever.
“On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of march express, we wanted to bring Carl Sagan’s reflections back to the present day, where the worsening of the climate and the ecological crisis are blatant, ”reports spokesperson Jorge Hernández Bernal in an official press release. “In these images, the Earth is the size of an ant seen from 100 meters away, and we are all there. We have to take care of the ‘pale blue dot’, there is no planet B”.
The last photograph was captured precisely on the date that marks the launch of the mission, which began on June 2, 2003. Just 20 years ago, the first planetary image obtained by the spacecraft was that of the Earth-Moon system. The camera was positioned upside down, in order to capture an unobstructed view of our planet and the Moon at a distance of 8 million kilometers.
Since 2003, march express orbit around the “red planet”. By visualizing the surface of Mars, the team behind the mission maps its minerals, identifies the composition and circulation of its tenuous atmosphere, probes its crust, and explores how various phenomena interact in the extraterrestrial environment.
The camera attached to the spacecraft has already revealed a lot of information about the features of the Martian surface. His captures provide images of wind-sculpted ridges and ridges, chasms in the flanks of colossal volcanoes, impact craters, tectonic faults, river channels and even ancient lava pools.
Considered immensely productive during its two decades of progress, the project was originally planned to last just one Martian year, which equates to approximately 687 Earth days. However, exceeding its own goals, the mission was extended until at least the end of 2026.
“ESA has a long history of Mars exploration. We had the missions march express and the Trace Gas Orbiter. We’re about to explore the surface with the rover Rosalind Franklin and the Mars Sample Return. The next step is bold, but it is to send humans,” points out scientist Colin Wilson. “It may be another 20 years before people can look up from the surface of Mars to see Earth in the night sky,” he suggests.