Mars

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Nasa has launched the Mars rover Perseverance to detect life on the Red Planet
Nasa has launched the Mars rover Perseverance to detect life on the Red Planet
Credit: Twitter Reproduction (Public Domain)

NASA’s Mars rover Perseverance blasted off from Cape Canaveral on Thursday atop an Atlas 5 rocket on a mission to search for traces of potential past life on Earth’s planetary neighbour. Perseverance was the third of three Mars missions to launch in the space of just ten days, after the United Arab Emirates’ Mars Hope orbiter, and China’s Tianwen-1.

The six-wheeled rover is on a path to intercept Mars in February next year, and when it lands, the Nasa robot will also gather rock and soil samples to be sent home later this decade.

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China's Tianwen-1 Mars rover launched from Wenchang spaceport
China's Tianwen-1 Mars rover launched from Wenchang spaceport
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/ASU / Public domain

Mars is getting crowded. On July 23, China has launched its Tianwen-1 mission atop a Long March 5 rocket from Wenchang spaceport on Hainan Island. The Tianwen-1 Mars rover – or "Questions to Heaven" – is scheduled to arrive in Martian orbit in February and land on the surface of the Red Planet two or three months later.

"Specifically, the scientific objectives of Tianwen-1 include: (1) to map the morphology and geological structure, (2) to investigate the surface soil characteristics and water-ice distribution, (3) to analyze the surface material composition, (4) to measure the ionosphere and the characteristics of the Martian climate and environment at the surface, and (5) to perceive the physical fields (electromagnetic, gravitational) and internal structure of Mars," members of a recent Nature Astronomy paper wrote.

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UAE launched its first mission to Mars successfully
"We have lift-off. H2A, the rocket carrying the Hope Probe to space, has launched from the Tanegashima Space Centre in Japan."
"We have lift-off. H2A, the rocket carrying the Hope Probe to space, has launched from the Tanegashima Space Centre in Japan." Credit: @HopeMarsMission via Twitter

UAE's Mars Hope lift-off was a success. On Sunday the United Arab Emirates launched its Hope probe, a probe designed to orbit Mars to gather data from the Red Planet, from the Tanegashima Space Centre in Japan. The probe, which should reach March sometime in February 2021, will track day-to-night cycles of the planet's weather over the period of a Martian year which equals 687 days on Earth.

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The Mars 2020 Perseverance rover is scheduled for July 30th launch date
The Mars 2020 Perseverance rover's astrobiology mission will search for signs of ancient microbial life.
The Mars 2020 Perseverance rover's astrobiology mission will search for signs of ancient microbial life. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech (Public Domain)

Soon it will be "go for launch" for Mars 2020 Perseverance rover. On July 30, NASA's new Mars rover will go on its seven-month-long journey to the Red Planet. The launch had been postponed a couple of times because of technical difficulties and setbacks related to COVID-19.

Perseverance will land in Jezero Crater where it will search for "signs that microbes might have lived on Mars long ago, collect soil samples to be returned to Earth on a future mission and pave the way for human exploration beyond the Moon."

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"Just keep roving, roving, roving" – NASA's Curiosity is taking a mile-long Mars road trip this summer
Stitched together from 28 images, NASA's Curiosity Mars rover captured this view from "Greenheugh Pediment" on April 9, 2020, the 2,729th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. In the foreground is the pediment's sandstone cap. At center is the "clay-bearing unit"; the floor of Gale Crater is in the distance.
Stitched together from 28 images, NASA's Curiosity Mars rover captured this view from "Greenheugh Pediment" on April 9, 2020, the 2,729th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. In the foreground is the pediment's sandstone cap. At center is the "clay-bearing unit"; the floor of Gale Crater is in the distance. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity is going on a road trip this summer. Curiosity has already started it's mile-long trip to a part of Mount Sharp called the "sulfate-bearing unit" where it will search for "clues how climate on Mars and its prospects for life changed nearly 3 billion years ago."

Curiosity travels with a speed between 82 to 328 feet per hour. The rover will complete part of the trip on autopilot but can't make the trip "entirely without humans in the loop." According to Matt Gildner, the lead rover driver at JPL, Curiosity has "the ability to make simple decisions along the way to avoid large rocks or risky terrain" and it only stops if it doesn't have enough information to complete a drive on its own."

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Mars rover delayed again, launch no earlier than end of July
In this image, taken on June 13, 2019, engineers at JPL install the starboard legs and wheels — otherwise known as the mobility suspension — on the Mars 2020 rover.
In this image, taken on June 13, 2019, engineers at JPL install the starboard legs and wheels — otherwise known as the mobility suspension — on the Mars 2020 rover. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The launch of NASA's next Mars rover has been delayed once again. This time the delay is due to "a liquid oxygen sensor line presented off-nominal data during the wet dress rehearsal, and additional time is needed for the team to inspect and evaluate." NASA expects the rover to launch no earlier than July 30.

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110 people needed to start colony on Mars, scientists find
110 people needed to start colony on Mars, scientists find
Credit: unsplash.com/Nicolas Lobos

Mars won't be too crowded. French Professor Jean-Marc Salotti (Bordeaux Institut Nationwide Polytechnique) found that a small community of 110 people is sufficient to set up a self-sustaining colony on Mars. The settlers would live in an oxygen-filled glass dome where they would have to focus on building an agricultural industry to provide for themselves.