The mission is primarily intended to draw attention to the Emirates. The country sees science and technology as a source of income for the future when oil runs out. The United Arab Emirates has had its own space agency since 2014, and last year a man from the country went to space for the first time. Astronaut Hazza al-Mansouri spent about a week in the International Space Station. UAE plans to establish a settlement on Mars in the early 22nd century.
Two more missions
In addition, there are two more missions aimed at the planet Mars: a Chinese and an American one. Where the UAE only wants to put a satellite in orbit around Mars, China wants to send both a satellite and a lander to Mars. The Chinese unmanned aerial vehicle was launched yesterday from the southern island of Hainan. Authorities say the launch was a success. At the end of this month, the United States also wants to send another spacecraft to the planet. A Mars car and an experimental helicopter on board the American lander.
A fourth project, by ESA and the Russians together, is not finished on time due to technical problems and has to wait more than two years. Because only every 26 months, Earth and Mars are in a good position to attack the Red Planet from the blue planet. Earth and Mars orbit the sun in elliptical orbits. The earth, on the inner orbit, takes a round of 365 days. Mars, on the outer orbit, needs 687 days for that. So Earth ‘laps’ Mars every so often. The ‘Marswindow’ is open this year between mid-July and mid-August.
The three earthly envoys must arrive at their target in the spring of 2021. Their main task is to answer the question: Is or was there life on Mars? If clues to Martian life are found, it would be the first time that we have discovered traces of life outside the earth. That would be a major historical first.
The American scout is a Martian car called Perseverance. This six-wheel electric rover of approximately 3x3x2 meters will conduct research in the northern hemisphere of Mars, in the Jezero crater with a diameter of 50 kilometers. A few billion years ago, that crater, once created by the impact of a rock from space, was full of water. Plenty of clay has been deposited. The area seems ideal for a search for life forms from now or from the past. If the car is delivered successfully, it will be the tenth successful landing attempt on the Red Planet for NASA.
Perseverance carries a tiny helicopter baptized Ingenuity. That must be the first active aircraft on another planet. Ingenuity and its successors can serve as terrain explorers for future Mars rovers.
Monsters in tubes
The robot Perseverance will search for signs of life on Mars. But on earth we can of course do more and better research. That is why the Mars rover will collect twenty drill samples in tubes the size of a felt-tip pen. They are stored on site. They can be retrieved and brought to Earth for further investigation by a future automatic Martian.
China is taking part in the race to the Red Planet for the first time. The country skyrocketed planet explorer Tianwen (Celestial Questions) yesterday on its own Long Mars 5 rocket. “Every long March starts with a first step,” Chairman Mao Tse Toeng once said. But this is not a modest step. Because it is also a very ambitious and even three-part project: a Martian Art Moon and a Mars Lander with a car measuring 2×1.6×0.8 meters.
Branch of Earth
Why do we want to go to Mars? Very slowly we are beginning to realize that we need a branch of the earth. Everything can go wrong with our beautiful blue planet, due to a natural cause, for example the impact of an asteroid, or due to our own stupidity. That message sounds louder and louder, especially thanks to pioneers like Elon Musk, the boss of Tesla and SpaceX.
Mars research used to be only about knowledge, but now it appears that this information is necessary to survive. “If we don’t become a multi-planetary species, we’re doomed,” says the visionary entrepreneur. And with that, Musk proclaims a position that was taken a hundred years ago by scholars who were considered implausible eccentrics at the time.
The Martians are the beginning, people are not yet walking around the Red Planet. First, experience on the moon must be gained with a base. In 2024, NASA wants to put another man and the first woman on it.