The European Space Agency is offering schools, science classes and youth clubs across Europe the opportunity to control the Mars Express webcam for one day only.
According to the ESA's website, the Visual Monitoring Camera (VMC) – the 'Mars Webcam' – is a simple, low-resolution device that was originally intended only to provide visual confirmation of Beagle lander separation. Since 2007, it has provided unique images of Mars, including crescent views of the planet not obtainable from Earth, which are routinely shared via a dedicated blog and Flickr.
In May, the Mars Webcam will be available for public imaging requests.
The ESA is inviting schools, astronomy clubs, science centres and other youth-engaged organisations (see eligibility details here) to propose targets for VMC imaging, which will be scheduled into an observation campaign that will run from 25–27 May.
While any number of eligible groups may submit proposals, only the most promising will be selected, one slot per group, corresponding to the eight (or so) observation slots available (the number varies depending on the targets proposed).
Proposals must include the desired observation target, a brief note about why it's interesting and a description of the intended project that will fully exploit the images. Proposals with strong educational value and representing a cohesive team effort will have the best chances of being accepted.
In return, ESA expects that groups that are awarded a slot will use 'their' image set in a scientific or artistic project that makes full, imaginative use of the visual information they contain. The projects must be shared with ESA, and they'll publish these later in the VMC blog.
The VMC image sets will be downloaded to Earth by 28 May, and then delivered to participating groups electronically. Projects should be completed by the end of the current academic year, or 31 July, whichever comes first.
Proposals will be accepted up until 27 March; any interested groups must register via the ESA's website to indicate their interest and provide details on their requested imaging target and their planned science/art project.
On 19 March, the Mars Express mission team will provide a tutorial via an #ESAHangout in Google+ and YouTube on the VMC camera and how its images are planned and acquired. Proposals can be amended afterwards, and all submissions must be firm by 27 March.
Full details on the VMC Imaging Campaign timeline, eligibility, registration and technical information are available via this link:
Online registration: Deadline 12:00 CET, 27 March