- United Arab Emirates (UAE), China, and the United States launching their Mars-bound spacecraft this month.
- This is the first Mars expedition for UAE and China.
- Their avant-garde landers and rovers will help conduct a comprehensive study of the planet’s atmosphere and rock samples.
Mars is that one planet that the United States often study and explore. They have been launching several spacecraft there for over 40 years to gather data. But now, UAE and China are sending their own for the first time, albeit on different missions.
China, however, have already attempted to send an orbiter in 2011. It rode piggyback on a Russian spacecraft bound to Mars but the launch failed and it ended up in the Pacific Ocean. As for the UAE, it is the first Arab country to dip their toes on planetary mission. Last September, however, they have successfully sent their first astronaut to the International Space Station.
Using avant-garde equipment, these countries are heading to the red planet.
1. Hope (UAE)
July 19, 2020 marked the launch of the first orbiter from the UAE via a Japanese rocket. Hope Orbiter will travel a high orbit for one Martian year or 687 days. This way, it can observe different locations at various times, and capture detailed photos of the planet’s atmosphere and weather.
Hope or EMM boasts of a camera that captures high resolution images. It will use an infrared spectrometer for the lower atmosphere to analyze dust, ice clouds, water vapor and temperature. An ultraviolet spectrometer permits them to examine carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and oxygen in the upper atmosphere.
2. Tianwen 1 (China)
China is no stranger to the outer space, particularly the moon. This year, however, they took another shot at Mars, and sent the orbiter Tianwen 1 last July 23.
Tianwen 1—from a Chinese poem by Qu Yuan, which translates to “Questions to Heaven” —is a five-ton orbiter plus lander and rover.
Upon reaching Mars, the landing pod is to detach from the orbiter. The latter remains in space and observes the planet using seven instruments. One of these is a ground-penetrating radar that enables it to “look” deep beneath the planet’s surface. It helps to show the geology and distribution of Martian rocks, dirt, and ice.
The lander has a protective shell with a parachute. It will aid in the gradual descent of the lander on the planet’s surface. Struts are then deployed midair. The bottom part of the lander has a thruster to ensure softer landing.
A ramp will slide out once it reaches the ground and the rover will drive away to investigate. The rover will also unfold its two sets of solar panel wings after landing.
3. Perseverance and Ingenuity (USA)
NASA considers this, by far, their most advanced mission to Mars. It involves Perseverance, the 2,200-lb rover and Ingenuity, a 4-lb experimental helicopter. This will also be their initial attempt to make a powered flight on another planet.
NASA patterned Perseverance’s design from Curiosity, a successful mission that landed on Mars in 2012. It is currently on its 8th year of exploring the red planet.
The rover uses a plutonium power supply, designed to last for over ten years.
The rover has six individually motorized aluminum wheels. Consequently, it enables the rover to turn a complete 360 degrees while in place. The modified wheels also help to improve traction in sand. Moreover, it has a suspension system that allows it to withstand obstacles on the surface of Mars.
It carries 19 cameras capable of showing images in color instead of black and white, and a drill for extracting core samples from rocks.
Mars was once a habitable place. Now, the mission is to discover if it was ever inhabited. The target launch for NASA’s Perseverance is on July 30.
All three spacecraft are expected to reach Mars by February next year.
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