July is the month of Mars.
Three missions are about to launch towards the Red Planet this month, including NASA’s car size Endurance roverwho are looking for signs of ancient Martian life and will cache samples for future return to Earth.
The action will start next week if everything goes according to plan. The United Arab Emirates (UAE )’s first interplanetary effort Hope Mars missionThe start of the Emirates Mars mission is scheduled for July 14th.
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The Hope Orbiter will reach Mars in early 2021
The Hope spaceship was built by the United Arab Emirates’ Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center in collaboration with the University of Colorado Boulder, Arizona State University and the University of California Berkeley. And the project is leading the way for more than just the UAE: Hope is the first planetary science mission led by an Arab-Islamic nation.
China will launch its own milestone just over a week after Hope’s flight. July 23, China very first completely self-made mission to Mars, known as Tianwen-1, is said to take off on a Long March 5 rocket. (China has brought a piggyback orbiter named Yinghuo-1 on board the Russian Mars mission Fobos-Grunt, which was stuck in Earth orbit shortly after its launch in November 2011.)
Tianwen-1 is an ambitious project consisting of an orbiter, a lander and a 530-lb. (240 kg) rover the size of a small golf cart. Chinese officials have remained characteristically narrow on the mission – for example, they have not yet publicly announced a public landing site for the lander / rover pair – but the scientific equipment of these robots suggests that Tianwen-1 will conduct a thorough reconnaissance of the Martian environment.
The orbiter has six instruments, including a high-resolution camera, a magnetometer, and a mineral spectrometer that members of the mission team use to determine the composition of surface rocks. The rover also has six instruments, including a weather station, magnetic field detector, and ground radar that can detect underground water ice to a depth of approximately 100 meters (330 feet).
If Tianwen-1 is successful, China will only be the third nation to land a spacecraft on Mars after the Soviet Union and the United States. And this epic touchdown could lead to even bigger things in the near future: Chinese space officials have expressed a desire to launch a Mars sample return mission that could potentially start as early as 2030.
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The United States and Europe are also planning to bring pristine material from the Red Planet to Earth, and this project will really get going with the launch of Perseverance. The 2,315-lb. The (1,050 kg) rover, the centerpiece of NASA’s $ 2.7 billion Mars 2020 mission, is scheduled to take off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on July 30 and land on Mars on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. Jezero crater on February 18, 2021.
Perseverance will use his seven on-board instruments to characterize the geology of Jezero and search for signs of antiquity Martian life in the rocks of the 45 km wide crater, which was home to a lake and a river delta billions of years ago.
The six-wheeled robot will also collect and store several dozen samples from particularly promising examination locations. This material will be recovered and brought to earth, maybe already in 2031, in a campaign by NASA and the European Space Agency. Scientists in laboratories around the world will then study the Martian material in detail and look for signs of life and clues to the evolutionary history of the planet.
Mars 2020 also aims to lay the groundwork for crewed missions on the Red Planet, of which NASA plans to launch the first in the 2030s. For example, Perseverance, like the Tianwen-1 rover, is equipped with ice-hunting ground radar. Another NASA rover instrument, the Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment (MOXIE), generates oxygen from the thin Martian atmosphere, which contains 95 vol.% Carbon dioxide. (“ISRU” stands for “in-situ resource use.” NASA has many acronyms in case you didn’t notice.)
MOXIE isn’t the only technology demonstration from Mars 2020. A 4-lb. (1.8 kg) Helicopter called Ingenuity will travel to the Red Planet on the belly of persistence. After touchdown, Ingenuity will fall free and take a few short test flights into the marsh sky – the first exploration of an Earth-side world from the air.
If Ingenuity is successful, future Mars missions may typically include helicopters, NASA officials said. Such rotary wing aircraft could serve a variety of purposes, from finding promising rover investigation areas to exploring difficult-to-access areas such as caves or steep-walled craters.
Hope, Tianwen-1 and Mars 2020 must all be commissioned this summer or stored for longer than two years, as Earth and Mars are only favorable for planetary missions once every 26 months. And the current start window isn’t open for very long. Mars 2020 ends on August 15, NASA officials have said. (The mission window was originally opened on July 17, but there are some technical issues pushed things back to July 30th.)
A Mars mission, which is scheduled to start this year, is already packed away by 2022. Life-saving rover Rosalind Franklin, part of the European-Russian ExoMars program, encountered parachute problems and several other problems could not be solved in time for a start in 2020.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about finding a new life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.