The red giant Mars has fascinated humans for many years, due to its intriguing habitable climate, the possibility for ancient life, and interesting findings of water and methane. The planet only aligns with Earth well enough for interplanetary launch once every 26 months. Therefore, space agencies in 2020 launched their space crafts on route to Mars around the same time. In February 2021, three of these machines arrived safely at Mars.
Hope mission (UAE)
The first to arrive was The United Arab Emirates (UAE) Space Agency’s Hope mission, which was actually the Arab world’s first interplanetary mission. After seven months of space travel, the satellite is orbiting Mars, collecting data on the three atmospheric bands of the planet. Alongside dust, ice clouds temperature, ozone abundance, seasons, and more.
Tianwen 1 and Zhurong (China)
A day after the arrival of the UAE satellite, China’s Tianwen 1 device came into orbit. This was another milestone for a nation, being the country’s first Mars exploration adventure. Here, a detachable craft named Zhurong, slipped from orbit to landing on the surface: looking for data on water and climate. So far, this robot’s mission is to; hunt for buried water, make a map of Mars’ magnetic field, and carry out surface rock composition analysis.
Perseverance rover (NASA)
In this exciting month, a third spacecraft landed in the 28-mile-wide Jezero Crater, this time from NASA in the form of a car sized machine called Perseverance rover. Billions of years ago, the crater used to be a giant lake, therefore the craft is trying to hunt for ancient signs of life. The rover carries the ability to gather 43 samples, six have been already filled. Scientists hope these samples will be returned to earth for analysis in the not too distant future of 2031. The European Space Agency (ESA), is assisting this mission also.
Perseverance traveled this long distance with a helicopter named Ingenuity. Once the chopper dropped off the rover, it went on its own missions to explore aerial views of the crater. So far it has performed 18 flights, showing that aerial exploration is possible on this giant. “The helicopter has become a real asset and partner to our science team,” stated Perseverance surface operations mission manager Jessica Samuels.
Space crafts from the past
Other robots have also been tracking Mars for many years and are still going strong. These include NASA’s curiosity rover, Mars Odyssey, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution) probe. ESA’s Mars Express and the joint Russian effort Trace Gas Orbiter. Who knows what new discoveries we will make about our neighboring planet in the upcoming years. All scientists know is there is much more exciting information to uncover.