The Competition


When on March 6, 2015, the European Space Agency ESA announced a project for schools, astronomy clubs and science blocks, we were hooked.
At the end of May thousands of pictures of the Mars’ surface should have been taken exclusively for eight participating groups as part of the VMC Imaging Campaign. Application deadline was the March 27, where we had to suggest what we’d like to observe on the Mars. For that purpose the ESA provided an animation in which the orbit of the probe MARS EXPRESS is simulated:


On board of the ESA probe, the webcam “VMC” would provide the pictures we could use unlimitedly for our project.
We chose the North Pole, because our “scientific project goal” should be finding life on Mars. We were delighted when we were told on March 27 that we made it to the last 25 finalists. Until May 8 it should have been decided, “who really is going to fly to Mars”. Then, the first obstacle turned up: May 13! Instead of eight projects, twenty-two got accepted - and ours was not one of them!
Due to the seasons on Mars - on the northern hemisphere is currently Winter - the North Pole is mostly in the shadows (approximately 90%). In addition to that, parts are covered by a huge dust storm. Our project was destined to fail even before it started…
But there was one last chance:
The ESA-Hangout on the May 22, where everyone could ask questions (The important part for our mission is at 47:25):


The South Pole would be in bright sunlight, when MARS EXPRESS flies by. It would be a good replacement, but with one disadvantage: On the southern hemisphere is now Summer and the ice melts and pulls back further every day.
On the other hand, that was just what we wanted in the first place. When finally the ESA approved, we were on the right track again.
The italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, who resided on board of ISS at that time, tweeted about the VMCSchools Project:


And on July 3 the photos turned up: 368 pictures in JPG and RAW format. Some photos were taken without editing and others were edited. They are subject to the following licence:
Credit: ESA - European Space Agency, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

But enough of backstory, now let’s start with the project, that you can find by clicking the Articles section of the menu.