Space is the next big thing. It always has been. But it isn’t easy for governments with space programs to implement plans quickly amidst global events like political conflicts, natural disasters, and epidemics. Still, despite a major setback in the first half of the year due to the 2019 coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, space exploration plans and projects continued.
And this month, we’ll be witnessing three of the most exciting missions that will be launched in our time—all headed for the Red Planet. Any venture capitalist would be excited to put their money into space companies when these missions become successful.
Mars, Here We Come!
Did you know that no less than four missions to Mars were planned for July 2020? Yes, all eyes are trained on the Red Planet this month because of the alignment of Earth and Mars. The phenomenon happens only every two years (or every 26 months, to be exact). The alignment of the planets is said to be conducive to Mars or other interplanetary missions. If they don’t take off within the alignment period, these missions will have to wait until 2022.
- Hope Mission – The United Arab Emirates-initiated mission will be the first to take off on July 14 (July 15 in UAE) from the Tanegashima Space Centre in Japan. Its main objective is to study the climate and atmosphere of Mars, hoping to answer prevailing questions about the planet’s weather and elements that changed its environment. The Hope rover, built by UAE experts with the help of Arizona State University, University of California Berkeley, and University of Colorado Boulder, is said to be a “state-of-the-art weather satellite.”
- Tianwen-1 Mission – China will follow on July 24 with its first homegrown, solo mission. It will launch a rover, lander, and orbiter from a Long March 5 rocket in Wenchang, Hainan Island. The China team has not indicated the exact objective of their Mars mission, but the instruments on the rover and orbiter suggest that they might try to study the composition of the planet’s surface rocks and look into “subsurface water ice” of more than 300 feet.
- Mars 2020 Mission – The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Perseverance rover will take off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on July 30. It will bring advanced equipment to survey the environment and find evidence of past or present life on the planet. It also plans to release a helicopter drone named Ingenuity, which will survey Mars’ surface and determine the potential for getting samples to be brought back to Earth for future missions.
The rover is expected to land on Mars’ Jezero Crater on February 18, 2021 (which is the same month of Hope’s expected arrival on the planet). It will have a 687-day mission duration. The rover will also carry an aluminum plaque on its chassis showing the Earth on top of the staff and serpent symbol—the symbol of the medical profession—in honor of the COVID-19 medical teams.
- ESA-Russian Mission – The rover Rosalind Franklin, named after the chemist who discovered the molecular structure of DNA, is part of the ExoMars program of the European Space Agency (ESA) and Russia. The program also planned to send the rover to Mars this month. Unfortunately, it encountered technical problems that couldn’t be fixed in time, so the team decided to push back their project to 2022, during the next Earth-Mars alignment.
Mars missions are but a few of the amazing recent developments in space travel and exploration. There’s still a lot to be discovered and learned out there. The earlier we start, the earlier we can find out the secrets of the galaxies.