The Race to Mars
Posted by: Communications Team | February 15, 2021
The race to Mars is on – again. Beginning on February 9, 2021 the United Arab Emirates’ orbiter reached Mars. In less than 24 hours China’s orbiter/rover combo starts orbiting Mars. The cosmic caboose, NASA’s Perseverance will land on Mars on Thursday, February 18.
For information on viewing the landing visit View Perseverance Landing.
The U.S. is still the only country to successfully land on Mars, beginning with the 1976 Vikings. Two spacecraft are still active on the surface: Curiosity and InSight.
Six spacecraft currently are operating around Mars: three from the U.S., two from Europe and one from India. The UAE hopes to make it seven with its $200-plus million mission.
What is the Crowd About?
Every two years the plants line up - really. The Earth-to-Mars launch window shaves off years of travel time between the two planets.
The United Arab Emirates' orbiter reached Mars on Tuesday, February 9, 2021 followed less than 24 hours later by China's orbiter-rover combo. NASA's rover, the cosmic caboose, will arrive on the scene a week later, on February 18, to collect rocks for return to Earth.
NASA’s craft, the Perseverance, is aiming for an ancient river delta that seems a logical spot for once harboring life. This landing zone in Jezero Crater is so treacherous that NASA nixed it for Curiosity, but so tantalizing that scientists are keen to get hold of its rocks.
Steep cliffs, deep pits and fields of rocks could cripple or doom Perseverance, following its seven-minute atmospheric plunge. With an 11½-minute communication lag each way, the rover will be on its own, unable to rely on flight controllers.
The giant question these space missions are there to answer is “Can there be signs of life on another planet in our solar system?” The answer to that life altering question means that the rocks on Mars need to be returned to Earth.
The Perseverance will collect carefully selected and documented rock and sediment samples for future return to Earth, search for signs of ancient microbial life, characterize the planet’s geology and climate, and pave the way for human exploration beyond the Moon.
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Sources: NASA, Voice of America, Phys Org.