Mars Express Orbiter captures tiny Earth and Moon from the red planet

An image taken by the Mars Express spacecraft in 2003 as it leaves the Earth and the moon in 2003 (Image credit: ESA)

A breathtaking view of Earth and the Moon was recently captured as tiny dots in Mars sky by the Mars Express Spacecraft while celebrating its 20th anniversary around the orbit of the red planet. On December 23, 2003, Mars Express Spacecraft arrived in the orbit of Mars and commenced its scientific exploration of the red planet. The European Space Agency (ESA) spacecraft has performed exceptionally well during its two years of exploring Mars.

The recent capture of our home planet and its neighboring celestial body amazes scientists across the world. The intriguing image revealed our planet and its natural satellite as a merely grand white dot cut across by a tiny white dot. Even though, this may not be the most fascinating image ever seen from the red planet, the Mars Express’s recent picture detailed the distance between Earth and the Red Planet. The photo also shows how far humanity has attained in putting a spacecraft around the orbit of a neighboring planet.

Why The Image of Earth and Moon from a Distance Often Fascinates Everyone

Viewing our home planet from a distance is often one of the most mind-blowing experiences anyone could think of. These distanced images of Earth reveal the tiny shape of our home planet from deep space. The most famous photo of Earth from a distance was the Pale Blue Dot taken by the Voyager 1 spacecraft in February 1990.

That fascinating image inspired astronomer and science communicator Carl Sagan to share his thought about the power of humanity to safeguard Earth as the only planet known to mankind to contain life. The renowned astronomer published a book in 1994 titled Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space. Carl Sagan’s idea in the book came from the popular 1990 Pale Blue Dot Photograph.

Sagan shared his view about the philosophy of the human place in the Universe based on our recent knowledge about the Solar System. He also shared his view on the human vision for the future. Even though it has been almost three decades since Sagan shared his opinions about us, the world is yet to implement some of his fascinating ideas. The recent capture of Earth from Mars orbit has reignited the zeal for us to understand our place in the Universe.

“On the Special Occasion of Mars Express’s 20th anniversary since launch, we wanted to bring Carl Sagan’s reflections back to the present day, in which the worsening climate and ecological crisis make them more valid than ever”. Jorge Hernandez Bernal, University of the Basque country researcher and a team member behind the recent image said in a statement. “In these simple snapshots from Mars Express, Earth has the equivalent size as an ant seen from a distance of 100 meters, and we are all in there. Even though we have seen images like these before, it is still humbling to pause and think: We need to look after the pale blue dot, there is no planet B,” he added.

How Mars Express Spacecraft Commenced Its Journey To Mars Orbit

On June 3, 2003, the Mars Express spacecraft lifted off from Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome launch complex in Kazakhstan and commenced its journey to the red planet. On December 2003, the Mars Express Spacecraft arrived in orbit around Mars and it into a highly elliptical orbit around the red planet on 25th December 2003. The powerful spacecraft returned its first image from space on July 3, 2020, when it looked back at Earth and the Moon when it was just 5 million miles (8 million kilometers) from home.

In addition, the Mars Express spacecraft captured these images using a super-resolution channel (SRC) of its High-Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC). This instrument arrived on Mars with the Mars Express Spacecraft to observe the two Martian moons and study the background stars around the Red Planet. The space probe captured these images on May 15, May 21, and June 2, 2023.

The photos revealed over half of the 29.5-day orbit of the moon around the Earth. The last photo was captured before a main event during which the spacecraft transmitted images taken by its Visual Monitoring Camera (VMC) showing the view of Earth and the moon live from Mars during the anniversary broadcast. Hence, this breathtaking view is the first of its kind.

“There is no scientific value in these images, but since the conditions allowed us to point the HRSC to Earth and shortly after the VMC to Mars, we took the opportunity to create our own portrait of home on this incredible mission milestone for Mars Express,” member of the Mars Express team at the German Aerospace Center Daniela Tirsch said.

What’s Next For Mars Express Spacecraft

Illustration shows the Mars Express spacecraft which recent took spetacular view at Earth. (Image credit: ESA)

While the Mars Express Spacecraft has spent an entire 20 years around the red planet, the sophisticated ESA Mars orbiter still has several tasks to execute before its retirement. ESA extended the mission of Mars Express to December 31, 2026, earlier this year.

“ESA has a long history of Mars exploration, first from orbit with Mars Express and the Trace Gas Orbiter, and in the next decade on the surface with the Rosalind Franklin rover and the completion of the Mars Sample Return missions. The next bold ambition is, of course, to explore with humans,” ESA project scientist for Mars Express and the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, Colin Wilson, revealed in a statement. “Perhaps it will only be another 20 years before humans can look up from the surface of Mars to see Earth in the night sky.”

Conclusion

The Mars Express orbiter recently captured a fascinating view of Earth and moon from the deep space during its anniversary broadcast. Hence, scientists suggest that the new image reveals the beauty of our home planet from a distance. What do you think about this fascinating view?

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