“Why Mars is such a popular destination this summer” – Science

The very first mission of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will depart for Mars on Thursday. No fewer than three space missions are leaving for the red planet this summer. Nancy Vermeulen explains why.

It is no coincidence that three space missions are taking place this summer. There is now a launch window. Once every two years, Earth and Mars are in an optimal position. For a short period of time, the distance between the two planets is small enough to bridge with a minimum of energy. Anyone who misses this opportunity must wait two years until the planets are in a favorable position again. The current window occurs from mid-July to mid-August. Missions that then depart will arrive on Mars in February 2021.

The UAE is investigating the climate

The first launch, that of the United Arab Emirates, is scheduled for July 16. This “Al Amal” or “Hope” mission arrives in February 2021, the year in which the UAE celebrates 50 years of independence. Arab civilization, which used to play a pioneering role in human knowledge, must be put back on the map. The focus is on providing unique new insights into the atmosphere and climate on Mars using a Mars weather satellite.

The United States: soil samples and a helicopter

And then of course there are the United States, who want to build a mobile laboratory the size of an all-terrain vehicle between July 30 and August 15. The mission is called “Perseverance”, is full of new cutting-edge technology and has a very busy program: looking for traces of micro-organisms and learning more about geology and climate. He must also take soil samples, which will be kept in cylindrical cans until a combined NASA-ESA mission comes to collect them within a few years. For the first time in history, a helicopter is also going to explore.

Why Mars is such a popular destination this summer.

China is trying to land for the first time

China will send an orbiter, lander and rover in July to map the composition of the soil, see where there is ice, study the Mars ionosphere and look for signs of life. If this “Tianwen-1” or “Questions in the Sky” mission succeeds, China will become the third country (after the United States and Russia) to not only put an orbiter into orbit around Mars, but also effectively cast wheels on the put bottom.

Why is landing on Mars so difficult?

Landing on Mars is extremely difficult. When a spaceship returns to Earth, it can use the friction of the atmosphere to lose energy and speed. But because the Martian atmosphere is so thin, you can’t lose as much excess speed and you have to combine other landing techniques. And that combination often goes wrong. The Perseverance mission, for example, will slow down partly by means of friction in the atmosphere, partly with parachutes and the last piece will be placed on Mars with a kind of crane.

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What Mars can teach us about our own climate

If we look at Earth’s neighboring planets: Venus and Mars, we see two extremes. On Venus you have a runaway greenhouse effect due to a very thick atmosphere. On Mars, you have just the opposite: a very thin atmosphere, so that the temperature and pressure are so low that water freezes or evaporates, but no longer flows. It used to be different. In a distant past, the conditions on both Venus and Mars probably resembled those of Earth and may have been pleasant. By studying these two extreme climate histories, we learn more about the past, present and future of Earth’s climate.

Is there or not life on Mars?

Current and future robot missions focus strongly on whether life on Mars is possible. So far, no direct evidence of life has been found on Mars. And there is little chance that it is currently there. The magnetic field is weak and there is hardly any atmosphere, causing harmful sun rays to break up organic molecules on the surface. But there used to be a thicker atmosphere, which protected against that solar violence. There was also water in liquid form, which helped shape the landscape. It is not without reason that Mars rovers land on sediment areas of ancient lakes or river deltas in search of molecules and minerals that can be formed through biological processes. During this mission we hope to gain more insight into our own evolution. By looking at other planets and ice moons and looking for signs of life there, additional puzzle pieces come together in our search for the origin of life itself.

And manned missions?

Before sending manned missions to Mars, we want to make sure we don’t contaminate the planet with our own bacteria. Therefore, we must first rule out that there is already “natural” life on Mars. Currently, all superpowers are focusing on gathering more knowledge about the red planet so that we can choose the most optimal landing site in the future. On a human level too, there are quite a few challenges that we must first learn to master better, such as radiation and the psychological aspect of a long journey being in seclusion.

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But there is “hope”, we go step by step, we push our limits and we put some puzzle pieces back in our age-old quest for life itself. And to answer these “age-old questions in the sky” requires much “Perseverence” or perseverance.

It is no coincidence that three space missions are taking place this summer. There is now a launch window. Once every two years, Earth and Mars are in an optimal position. For a short period of time, the distance between the two planets is small enough to bridge with a minimum of energy. Anyone who misses this opportunity must wait two years until the planets are in a favorable position again. The current window occurs from mid-July to mid-August. Missions that then depart will arrive on Mars in February 2021, with the first launch, that of the United Arab Emirates, scheduled for July 16. This “Al Amal” or “Hope” mission arrives in February 2021, the year in which the UAE celebrates 50 years of independence. Arab civilization, which used to play a pioneering role in human knowledge, must be put back on the map. The focus is on providing unique new insights into the atmosphere and climate on Mars using a Mars weather satellite, and then of course the United States, which runs a mobile laboratory the size of a laboratory between July 30 and August 15. off-road vehicle. The mission is called “Perseverance”, is full of new cutting-edge technology and has a very busy program: looking for traces of micro-organisms and learning more about geology and climate. He must also take soil samples, which will be kept in cylindrical cans until a combined NASA-ESA mission comes to collect them within a few years. For the first time in history, a helicopter will also be explored, with China sending an orbiter, lander and rover in July to map the composition of the soil, see where there is ice, and study the ionosphere of Mars. and look for signs of life. If this “Tianwen-1” or “Questions in the Sky” mission succeeds, China will become the third country (after the United States and Russia) to not only put an orbiter into orbit around Mars, but also effectively cast wheels on the Landing on Mars is extremely difficult. When a spaceship returns to Earth, it can use the friction of the atmosphere to lose energy and speed. But because the Martian atmosphere is so thin, you can’t lose as much excess speed and you have to combine other landing techniques. And that combination often goes wrong. The Perseverance mission, for example, will slow down partly by means of friction in the atmosphere, partly with parachutes and the last piece will be placed on Mars with a kind of crane. If we look at Earth’s neighboring planets: Venus and Mars, we see two extremes. On Venus you have a runaway greenhouse effect due to a very thick atmosphere. On Mars, you have just the opposite: a very thin atmosphere, so that the temperature and pressure are so low that water freezes or evaporates, but no longer flows. It used to be different. In a distant past, the conditions on both Venus and Mars probably resembled those of Earth and may have been pleasant. By studying these two extreme climate histories, we learn more about the past, present and future of Earth’s climate, current and future robot missions focus strongly on whether life on Mars is possible. So far, no direct evidence of life has been found on Mars. And it is unlikely that it is currently there. The magnetic field is weak and there is hardly any atmosphere, causing harmful sun rays to break up organic molecules on the surface. But there used to be a thicker atmosphere, which protected against that solar violence. There was also water in liquid form, which helped shape the landscape. It is not without reason that Mars rovers land on sediment areas of ancient lakes or river deltas in search of molecules and minerals that can be formed through biological processes. During this mission we hope to gain more insight into our own evolution. By looking at other planets and ice moons and looking for signs of life there, additional puzzle pieces come together in our search for the origin of life itself. Before sending manned missions to Mars, we want to make sure we don’t contaminate the planet with our own bacteria. Therefore, we must first rule out that there is already “natural” life on Mars. Currently, all superpowers are focusing on gathering more knowledge about the red planet so that we can choose the most optimal landing site in the future. On a human level too, there are quite a few challenges that we need to learn to master better, such as radiation and the psychological aspect of a long journey in isolation. But there is “hope”, we progress step by step, we push our limits and we again put some puzzle pieces in our age-old quest for life itself. And to answer these “age-old questions in the sky” requires much “Perseverence” or perseverance.

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