Mars exploration: Why are we so fascinated with the red planet?


In February, three spacecraft arrived at Mars after departing from completely different launch factors on Earth in July. These myriad missions search to grasp our planetary neighbor and unlock the secrets and techniques of its previous to organize for future exploration.

The Hope Probe will keep in orbit for a Martian 12 months — equal to 687 days on Earth — to assemble knowledge about Mars’ environment.

Tianwen-1, whose identify means “Quest for Heavenly Truth,” is orbiting the planet earlier than touchdown a rover on the floor, with the hope that it could possibly collect necessary details about the Martian soil, geological construction, setting, environment and indicators of water.

The Perseverance rover is trying to find indicators of historical life on Mars and can gather samples to be returned to Earth by future missions.

Mars Perseverance rover snaps selfie photo with Ingenuity helicopterMars Perseverance rover snaps selfie photo with Ingenuity helicopter

Perseverance additionally carries the names of practically 11 million individuals etched on three silicon chips. She is a robotic scientist exploring Mars on behalf of humanity and is ready to share what she sees and hears by way of 23 cameras, together with video, and two microphones.

If three missions arriving at Mars inside days of one another appears extreme, think about explorers seeing Earth for the first time and wanting to grasp all features of its previous, local weather, water, geology and life methods. It takes time and completely different capabilities to discover features of a whole planet to know the actual story.

Martian intrigues

Even although Mars is hundreds of thousands of miles away, it is nonetheless seen in our night time sky every now and then. It’s straightforward to think about orbiters whirling round the planet or rovers embedding wheel tracks in the red grime.

The subsequent step is imagining people stepping on the floor of Mars to discover with their very own eyes what has solely been a actuality for robotic explorers.

Mars Curiosity rover takes selfie with 'Mont Mercou'Mars Curiosity rover takes selfie with 'Mont Mercou'

NASA has been sending missions to discover Mars since 1965, sharing photographs and information gained about our fascinating neighbor. Mars is the second most accessible place in our photo voltaic system to ship missions past the moon.

But it additionally has a mysterious historical past, and it could have as soon as been loads like Earth — that means it is an awesome place to seek for historical life. And a lot of the key questions we have about the photo voltaic system will be addressed by learning Mars.

“Mars is the most Earth-like planet in our solar system,” mentioned performing NASA administrator Steve Jurczyk. “That’s really intriguing because by studying the geological and climate history of the planet and how it evolved, we can also inform how Earth has evolved and how it will evolve in the future.”

The succesful robots exploring Mars now lay the groundwork for touchdown human missions on the red planet later, Jurczyk mentioned.

For the longest time, scientists thought Mars was all the time a dry, chilly and desolate place, he mentioned. But orbiters and rovers have supplied proof of when Mars was hotter and wetter billions of years in the past.

Perseverance rover sends back sounds of zapping rocks on MarsPerseverance rover sends back sounds of zapping rocks on Mars

In 1994, NASA started the Mars Exploration Program with the objectives of exploring the red planet to grasp the formation and evolution of Mars, its potential to have as soon as hosted life and as a web site of exploration by people.

Remaining at Mars feeds a steady cycle of knowledge primarily based on observations gathered by orbiters from above and robots on the floor.

NASA's Artemis program will land the first person of color on the moonNASA's Artemis program will land the first person of color on the moon

At NASA, efforts are underway to land the first girl and the subsequent man on at the lunar south pole by 2024 by way of the company’s Artemis program. The moon is seen as a proving floor for methods and applied sciences earlier than happening to Mars.

Along with Perseverance, NASA additionally despatched Ingenuity, which is able to quickly be the first helicopter to fly on one other planet. The four-pound expertise demonstration is an experiment for powered and managed flight in the skinny environment of Mars.

Ingenuity Mars helicopter: The historic journey to fly on another planetIngenuity Mars helicopter: The historic journey to fly on another planet

Sojourner, the microwave-sized rover that landed on Mars in 1997, was a expertise demonstration. Its success led to NASA’s bigger rovers equivalent to Curiosity and Perseverance. Ingenuity may very well be the first of many rotorcraft that will act as scouts for rovers and astronauts, flying over harmful or inaccessible terrain.

“In both science fiction and the real world, the future belongs to robots and humans working together, each contributing their unique capabilities in truly ingenious ways exploring the universe,” wrote Robin Murphy in a current Focus article for the journal Science Robotics. Murphy is the Raytheon Professor in Computer Science & Engineering at Texas A&M University.

Bringing Mars to Earth

The Perseverance rover is exploring Jezero Crater, the web site of an historical lake mattress and river delta that existed 3.9 billion years in the past when Mars was doubtlessly liveable for all times. The rover is trying to find proof of microfossils and can gather samples from varied components of the lake mattress and river delta in the hopes of discovering them.

They can be the first samples from Mars ever returned to Earth, however the route is difficult.

The Mars Sample Return mission entails NASA collaborating with the European Space Agency. And given the problem of this multipronged return journey of the samples, they will not land on Earth till 2031, at the earliest.

In this illustration, the Perseverance rover uses its drill to core a rock sample on Mars.In this illustration, the Perseverance rover uses its drill to core a rock sample on Mars.

In 2026, NASA and ESA will launch the Mars Ascent Vehicle lander and rocket carrying the Sample Fetch Rover. Perseverance will witness and share photographs of the touchdown of this spacecraft on Mars when it happens in 2028 — a primary.

Explore Jezero Crater, the home of NASA's Perseverance rover Explore Jezero Crater, the home of NASA's Perseverance rover

The lander will launch the fetch rover on the Martian floor to gather the samples and return them to the lander. The samples can be transferred to the ascent car, and it’ll blast off from the floor of Mars — one other first that can be witnessed by Perseverance.

The ascent car will rendezvous with an ESA spacecraft orbiting Mars and shoot out a football-size container holding the samples. The ESA orbiter will seize the container throughout this go between spacecrafts and head again towards Earth. Close to Earth, a NASA payload on the orbiter will put the container of samples in an entry car that may be deployed from the orbiter and land the samples on Earth in 2031.

A rocket will carry a container of tubes with Martian rock and soil samples into orbit around Mars and release it for pick up by another spacecraft. A rocket will carry a container of tubes with Martian rock and soil samples into orbit around Mars and release it for pick up by another spacecraft.

The samples will land in Utah and be transported to a sort of facility often related with the dealing with of biohazards. Then, scientists from round the world will be capable of research and analyze the chemical and bodily properties of those rock and soil samples for Mars, trying to find indicators of previous life.

The Mars rover landing was the happy moment we all neededThe Mars rover landing was the happy moment we all needed
“Because of its extensive laboratory suite, the Perseverance robot has a real chance of detecting signs of life on Mars,” wrote Neil Jacobstein in a current Focus article for Science Robotics. Jacobstein is a mediaX Distinguished Visiting Scholar at Stanford University and the chairman of the Artificial Intelligence and Robotics Track at Singularity University, a US-based firm providing instructional packages.

“If it does detect life or microfossils and if that discovery is verified by subsequent missions, it will alter our understanding of the universe. Those that believe that Earth is the sole cradle of life will have to adjust their horizons. Those that think life may be ubiquitous in the universe will have a new and microscopic start for their expanding inventory of life. Either way, robots will have proven to be a central and enduring component of space exploration.”



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