Mission Mars : Mars is a rocky planet that formed around the same time as that of earth and is about half the diameter of the earth. It has a much thinner atmosphere and a cold desert-like surface.
For a long time, it has been the subject of human interest. Early telescopic observation identified two moons Phobos and Deimos, polar ice caps, and Olympus Mons the Solar System’s second tallest mountain. The discoveries created further interest in the study and exploration of the planet.
The landing Process
On February 18, 2021, the Perseverance rover landed on Mars after traveling a distance of 293 million miles over a time period of 203 days. The landing on Mars is always difficult.
The rover hit the Mars atmosphere traveling at a speed of 12,000 miles per hour and an altitude of 1 mile, its engines fired and the terrain navigation system kicked in, to identify a safe landing spot.
A 70-foot diameter parachute slowed the craft further and the hovering landing sky crane system began the task of lowering the rover the rest of the way to the ground for a soft landing.
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Reason for choosing the Landing Site
The landing site chosen by NASA was the Jezero crater as the scientists believe the area was once home to an ancient water river delta more than 3.5 billion years ago. River channels spilled over the crater walls and created a lake carrying clay minerals from its surroundings.
Jezero Crater Mars
Microbial life could have lived in the crater and if so signs of their remains could be found in lakebed or shoreline sediments. Scientists will try to decipher how the region formed and seek signs of past life and samples of rock and soil will be collected that might have these signs.
Water is once believed to have existed here. There were active volcanoes 3 to 4 billion years ago and there are craters caused by the impact of asteroids dumping lots of heat into the ground as well as organic molecules. Hence Jezero is the best place to start the search for signs of life.
The Perseverance rover has cameras with zoom technology. This will allow getting great stereo images. Just as our left and right eye built a three-dimensional image in our brain the same way the zoom cameras have a left and right eye so that a three-dimensional image can be built back on earth.
This will help in studying the topography of Mars in much more detail than in the past. The 3D images will help the engineers to drive the rover to places avoiding slopes, trenches, and rocks.
The process of bringing samples back to earth
Perseverance will drill into the surface of Mars and catch those little cores into tubes and leave them on the surface of Mars. NASA is collaborating with a European space agency to build a lander that will send a rover to collect those samples. This lander will have a small rocket that will launch it into orbit and NASA and European Union’s orbiter will bring these samples back to earth.
The rover will go through some hardware checks to make sure that everything is working properly. The head will unfold and cameras will capture more images of the surroundings. Then there is Ingenuity, the little helicopter tucked under the rover that will begin its flights.
The rover will drive to a location called the helipad location where it will drop the helicopter on the surface and record images of the flights. In due course, the rover will switch over to software it will need to use to drive on the surface of Mars.
There are 11 probes currently surveying Mars. Two operational rovers are present on the surface of namely -Mars Curiosity and Perseverance both operated by the United States of America.
Eight orbiters are surveying Mars: Mars Odyssey, Mars Express, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars Orbiter Mission, MAVEN, The Trace gas orbiter, the Tianwen-1 orbiter, and the Hope Mars Mission. The stationary lander Insight is investigating the interior of Mars.
The previous Missions that have tried to land on Mars
The Soviets launched a series of probes to Mars starting in 1960 including the first intended flybys and hard landing. The first successful flyby of Mars was on 14–15 July 1965 by NASA’s Mariner 4.
The Indian Space Research Organization(ISRO) launched its Mars Orbiter Mission on 5th November 2013 and it entered into Mars orbit on 24th September 2014. It is the fourth space agency to reach Mars after the Soviet space program, NASA, and ESA.
UAE Mars Mission successfully navigated its way into Martian orbit, launched on 7th July 2020. Seven months and 493 million km from Earth, Hope Probe has safely pulled up alongside Mars on 9th February 2021 and is now in orbit around the Red Planet.
Tianwen-1 is a Chinese mission, launched on 23 July 2020. It includes an orbiter, a lander, and a small rover. The orbiter was placed into orbit on 10 February 2021. The lander and rover are currently planning to land in May 2021.
Future Mars Missions Planned:
1)European Space Agency and Roscosmos plan to send the Rosalind Franklin rover in 2022 to search for evidence of past or present microscopic life on Mars.
2) India’s ISRO plans to send a follow-up mission to its Mars Orbiter Mission in 2024 called Mars Orbiter Mission 2.
Human mission on Mars:
There are many government and private plans to put humans on Mars within the next thirty years:
ON September 28, 2007, NASA administrator Michael Griffin stated that NASA aims to put a person on Mars by 2037. In October 2015, NASA published its plan for exploration and colonization of Mars which has three phases:
· The first stage is the earth-reliant phase which continues using the International Space Station until 2024 and studying effects of long-duration space mission on the human body.
· The second stage includes moving away from earth reliance and capturing an asteroid and test deep-space habitation facilities.
· The third stage is the earth independent stage which includes long-term missions on the lunar surface and harvesting Martian resources for fuel, water, and building materials.
The goal of SpaceX founded by Elon Musk is to establish routine flights to Mars to enable colonization. To achieve this the company is developing Starship, a spacecraft capable of crew transportation to Mars. It has announced sending uncrewed Starships to Mars by 2022 followed by more flights. Also Read Alternatives For TESLA
The race to colonize space is in progress and there is competition among many countries. Mars is close to the earth and there is great interest in the planet. By studying the nature and environment scientists want to find out the origin of life. Colonizing Mars will act as a backup plan for humanity as every few million years earth is wiped up of life due to catastrophic events.