Mars missions: NASA, China and UAE launch new spacecraft this month

We have not yet sent astronauts to Mars, but July marks a significant month for launches to the red planet, aiming to look for signs of life.

NASA / JPL-Caltech

With very restricted travel across the planet, you may feel a little jealous for the three robotic explorers slated to depart for Mars next month. From this week until mid-August, a group of spacecraft will depart Earth with a one-way ticket to the red planet, tasked with unlocking secrets about past lives and the planet’s unusual atmosphere.

NASA will send the perseverance rover, a next-generation tramp who explore an ancient lake bed, looking for evidence of extraterrestrial life. The Chinese space agency is launching a triple threat: an orbiter, a lander, and a rover are on a mission to make China the third country to land on Mars. AND then there is hope, the orbiter of the United Arab Emirates, established in study the Martian atmosphere like never before.

It may seem unusual that many Mars missions are launching in such a short time, but I can assure you that it is not because the robots have reached sensitivity and decided to flee the garbage fire that 2020 has become. It is just physical.

Earth and Mars orbit around the Sun at different speeds, but every 26 months, their orbits align perfectly for space agencies to take advantage of something known as Hohmann’s transfer orbit.

“We make this type of transfer orbit to use the least amount of fuel,” says James O’Donoghue, a planetary scientist at the Japanese space agency JAXA. “We must also point to where Mars will be in the future.”

“It’s like passing a soccer ball to a striker, you have to point where they are going to be,” he says.

The path of the Insight lander (purple) as it leaves Earth (blue) and heads to Mars (green). The sun is the yellow dot, center-left.

Wikimedia Commons / JPL / NASA

POT took advantage of this window when he launched InSight, earthquake detector, in May 2018. You can see the transfer orbit in action in the image on the right.

Mars is particularly good at destroying our robotic explorers – history proves it half of the missions to Mars fail. But to paraphrase rogue galactic adventurer Han Solo, three space agencies appear as those odds. Here’s a brief overview of what you need to know about the great month of missions to Mars.

Click here and you can find links on how to see live upcoming releases.

A new hope

Mars’ atmosphere is much thinner than Earth’s and is primarily composed of carbon dioxide. It is so rare that scientists are fairly certain that liquid water cannot exist on the planet’s surface, but there are still a number of mysteries that astronomers hope to solve about the atmospheric conditions of the red planet.

In particular, Mars has raised some interesting questions when it comes to gases and the atmosphere. Has been An intense investigation of his methane., which appears to periodically increase in different regions of the surface.

To learn more about the planet’s strange atmosphere, the United Arab Emirates will send the “Al Amal” probe, also known as “Hope”. to Mars on July 14. The tiny car-sized probe will deploy its solar panels early in the mission and use star tracking to navigate to its destination. Once it reaches Mars in February 2021, its orbit will see it circle Mars once every 55 hours.

China Strikes Back

Until now, only the United States and Russia have been able to land on the surface of Mars. However, China has attempted to reach Mars orbit, but the rocket it launched on never made it into space.

China is ready to make another attempt with Tianwen-1, a spacecraft containing a Martian orbiter, a lander, and a scout vehicle. Her name is inspired by a Qu Yuan poem of the same name and means “Questions to Heaven”. Although only a few weeks are left, the mission remains shrouded in secrecy. However, reports suggest it will look for signs of life and use ground penetrating radar to help map the surface.

China has been particularly active in space exploration lately. In early 2019, was able to land a rover on the other side of the moon for the first time, but this mission was also quite secret: China did not even provide an update to the landing site for a few weeks. Yutu-2, the rover, has been working on the lunar surface, Discovering unusual substances in gel form (which one turned out to be a little rock) and continuing his joyous journey across the desolate plains.

The Tianwen-1 is scheduled for launch on July 23 and, like the other two spacecraft headed for Mars, it is expected to arrive sometime in February 2021.

Return of the Tramp

When a giant Martian dust storm mission to make Opportunity history ended in early 2019, only one lamination the science laboratory was operational on the surface: curiosity.

But in February 2021, as long as everything goes as well as planned, NASA’s lone rover will join two new robotic allies: Perseverance, a state-of-the-art alien hunting laband Ingenuity, a “helicopter” ready to take to the skies of the red planet.

The wit could become the first vehicle flown on another planet, provided it deploys correctly from the belly of Perseverance and is able to reach the Martian sky. The mission is expected to enable new ways to explore different worlds and potentially unexplored moons of Jupiter or Saturn.

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Perseverance’s touchdown point is an ancient lake bed known as Jezero Crater. The crater appears to have been filled with water, and the Perseverance science suite should be able to analyze the soil and sediment to see if there is any chance that life has thrived there. It will also cache the samples and leave them on the surface of the Jezero crater, with more missions to Mars aimed at retrieving the samples and taking them back to Earth.

NASA’s position is that life cannot exist on Mars today: it is too cold and too dry. But perseverance could answer the question “are we alone in the universe?” finding the telltale signs of life in geological formations. I hope it survives “seven minutes of terror” synonymous with Martian landings.

How to see Mars launches in July and August

If you’re looking to see the UAE’s Hope Probe launch and NASA’s Perseverance rover to the Red Planet this month, you’ll find them below. And if you are interested in celestial events and rocket launches, we recommend that you synchronize your calendar with the CNET Space Calendar; you will never miss a launch again.

Note: A live stream of the Tianwen-1 launch is not expected and dates are subject to change.

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