mars

China, UAE, U.S all probing Mars. What’s the difference?

What the different approaches, features, and objectives of the missions sent under different space programs by the CNSA, the UAESA and NASA last month of July 2020.

Exploring the other celestial bodies for the signs of life and a new home has always been a curiosity for humankind. We have sent hundreds of probes failed and successful in learning more vividly about our solar system. Considering our search, Mars is the only planet after Earth in the habitable zone (Habitable Zone: an orbital zone in a solar/star system, where conditions for life are suitable as it’s not too cold or not hot). In scientific circles, since NASA’s Phoenix Mars lander 2008, confirmed the presence of “Water Ice” on mars, water ice means that the discovery has the same elements of waters, what we have on Earth. Scientists and Space Exploration Agencies are trying to uncover more and possibly the colonization of the neighboring planet shortly.

Humanity has tried different attempts in the past to get information and data about the fellow planet. NASA, ESA, ROSCOSMOS/Russia, CNSA/China, ISRO/India, JAXA/Japan, UAESA agencies are the among who have been trying persistently to reach the red planet through their dozens of missions in the past 50 years. Some of the main interests are to find any evidence for the past or any possible form of life there.

In this article, I will be sharing the different approaches, features, and objectives of the missions sent under different space programs by the CNSA, the UAESA and NASA last month of July. 

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES SPACE AGENCY’s (UAESA) MISSION

The ambition is regarded as the ‘first interplanetary mission’ by the Arab World with the launch support of a private company in Japan. On July 20, 2020, UAESA with the help of Japanese H-IIA rocket, operated by ‘Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ launched a spacecraft called “Hope” developed by Laboratory of Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado Boulder and with the support of Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC). 

Mars spacecraft by UAE
Engineers of the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre work on the Hope spacecraft. Credits: UAE Space Agency

As per the UAESA, the orbiter will provide us with the first very complete picture of the Martian Atmosphere. More specifically, it will attempt to answer scientific questions such as why the martian atmosphere is losing Hydrogen and Oxygen from its atmosphere, a correlation of upper and lower atmospheric conditions will be made. Further, it will make attempts to understand and structurize a model for weather and seasonal change of the red planet. The gained information will also help scientists to understand more about the patterns and models of Earth’s atmosphere over the past millions of years. 

The entire data of the mission will be shared with over 200 international universities and institutes for research and study purposes.

UAE’s ambition to transform itself from an oil-based economy into a knowledge-based economy will inspire the other rich middle-eastern countries to be a part of the “Elite Club of Space Nations”. 

CHINA NATIONAL SPACE ADMINISTRATION’s (CNSA) MISSION

The People’s Republic of China, the world’s most populated country has sent a globally challenging spacecraft in the scientific race called “Tianwen-1”, this is a marvelous 5000-Kilogram robotic spacecraft consisting of an orbiter, lander, and rover. The mission was successfully launched from Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site on 23 July 2020 and will reach in next year February 2021.

The Chinese orbiter will loop the red planet for an entire Martian year.

The orbiter will study the Martian atmosphere and particular ionosphere. A magnetic field detector will provide us with essential insights about the past magnetic field of the planet.

Interestingly, the orbiter will loop the red planet for an entire Martian year (687 days of Earth), it will act as a communication transmitting linkage between the rover and us, the rover has a lifetime of 90 martian days-typically 93 days on our planet earth.

Here, quoting David Flannery, an astrobiologist at the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia, “The china will share the new data from Tianwen-1 with the scientific community as it shared few data sets of the moon before”. Further added, “Space belongs to everyone.”

NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION’s (NASA) MISSION

An illustration of NASA's Ingenuity Mars Helicopter. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech
An illustration of NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

As the world’s leading space agency, the “Perseverance” is a part of
the long-term endeavors of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program. This
pioneering, state-of-art, scientific proposal will be two-part: first the
rover, ‘Perseverance’, and a flying drone called “ingenuity”. The mission was launched on 30th July 2020 and expected to reach the Red Planet on 18th February 2021 at the ‘Jezero Crater’ a natural crater on the mars.
The ultimate approach is to explore the planet from an “Astrobiological’’ aspect, searching and trying to identify the environment of the planet in the past to support any form of microbial life.

The rocks will be studied from a geological perspective to seek
signs of habitability, as rocks are particularly known to preserve signs
of life over-ages. Further, it’s core data collection would be “Testing
oxygen production from the atmosphere” for future human landings.
Besides that summing up the payload consists of around seven main
instruments:

  • Mastcam-Z: Zoomable Paranormal Cameras
  • Laser Micro-Imager
  • A Subsurface-Radar
  • X-ray Spectrometer
  • Ultra-violet Spectrometer
  • MOXIE: Produces Oxygen from the Atmosphere
  • MEDA: A Weather Station

The curiously exciting part is the solar-powered Helicopter “Ingenuity,” which is 1.8-Kilogram, the small helicopter is expected to fly no more than 3 minutes per day and not more than five times in its 30-day flight testing period at the planet. It will serve as a foundation of a technology demonstrator for future developments of aerial vehicles for mars and other planetary bodies. 

As we have discussed the aspirations of different magnitudes of Space Programs, from an infant “Hope” of the UAE to a competitive spacecraft “Tianwen-1” by the CNSA and till the end, where we can see “Perseverance” a striving instrument by the leading agency NASA, all putting their money, resources and scientific understandings for an unknown but possibly-promising future for humankind.  

Link to similar posts: Three outstanding missions to Mars are set to launch this month

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