Three planes from three countries are on their way to Red Planet
The NASA chase there left Cape Canaveral, Florida at exactly 7:50 a.m. on July 30 and is now heading to Mars with a series of instruments designed to find ancient life. The launch is the third spacecraft this month at Red Planet.
This is the 22nd NASA target on Mars (16 of these missions were successful). But Perseverance will be the first mission to hide rock samples from Red Planet for a future mission to bring them back to Earth.
It will also be the first NASA mission in more than 40 years to directly search for life on Mars. Land rovers in an area called Jezero Crater (SN: 07/28/20). This crater is an ancient lake, and scientists believe its rocks and sediment may contain signs of life if life was there (SN: 07/29/20). The spacecraft will make video and audio recordings of its own landing as it falls – another first for a NASA mission to Mars.
“This mission contains more cameras than ever before,” Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s Planet Sciences Division, said at a press conference on July 30. “It feels like we’re here, riding Perseverance on the way down.”
Mars launch occurs in clusters through the orbits of Mars and Earth. The planets are aligned on both sides of the sun every two years, so scientists have narrow windows to begin the most efficient journey. This year’s three missions will take place in February 2021.
The other missions launched in July were the first for their respective countries. The UAE’s first mission carrying an orbiter called Hope Probe was launched from Japan on July 19. Hope will measure the weather on Mars, from daily temperature changes to the amount of dust in the planet’s atmosphere (SN: 7 / 14/20).
This was followed by China’s first mission to Mars, Tianwen-1, which stands for “Questions in the Sky,” which began on July 23. China sent planes into orbit and landed on the moon (SN: 03/01 / 19). And it’s the first country to send an orbiter, lander, and rover at the same time on the first attempt to reach Mars. “Missions to the planet have never been done this way,” the missionaries wrote in Nature Astronomy on July 13. “If this succeeds, it will be a major step forward.”
The Tianwen-1 lander and rover will be held at Utopia Planitia in April 2021. The rover and lander instruments will test the composition of the Earth’s surface as well as magnetic and gravitational fields and examine the interior of Mars.
Utopia Planitia is the same region where Nice Mars’ oldest life, the Viking 1, reached in 1976 (SN: 7/20/16). The Vikings were the first spacecraft to search for life on Mars, but its results were not worrying. Perhaps with the flow of spaceships this year and they plan to bring it to the Red Rock, scientists will know if Mars harbors or produces alien life.
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