February 9 The United Arab Emirates’ Hope spacecraft is set to enter orbit around Mars after a six-month journey 300 million kilometers from Earth. It will mark the start of a historic month for the Red Planet, which will see three separate national missions enter orbit or land on the surface. Two of the countries behind these missions, the United Arab Emirates and China, will visit Mars for the first time; they will become respectively the fifth and the sixth country to achieve this feat. The third mission, launched by NASA, is expected to become the 15th U.S. mission to successfully orbit or land on Mars.
The UAE is the only country not to attempt a soft landing during the March invasion in February. Instead, its Hope orbiter will study the Martian atmosphere more than 12,000 miles above the surface. The planets hope that UAE robot meteorologist will fill gaps in our understanding of the Martian climate and help validate environmental data captured by rovers and landers in the field. For the country’s first foray into deep space exploration, the United Arab Emirates space agency worked with an international team of researchers from the University of Colorado, Boulder, to help plan the mission and build the spaceship.
“There is really no point in exploring space without enriching knowledge, and we have never conducted a scientific mission,” said Sarah bint Yousef Al Amiri, UAE Minister of State for Advanced Sciences and Head of science for the Emirates Mars mission. a press conference last week. “It was not an easy trip, but it was such a pleasure to rethink how you develop a planetary exploration mission.”
The Hope spacecraft will be the first new orbiter around Mars since the arrival of the European Space Agency’s ExoMars spacecraft in 2016, but it won’t be the newcomer for long. From China Mission Tianwen-1– which is a lander, rover and orbiter coiled into one – is expected to arrive less than a day later. The Chinese space agency has been silent on its plans to visit the Red Planet, but the spacecraft is expected to attempt a landing soon after reaching orbit.
Unlike the size of a NASA car Martian rovers Curiosity and opportunity, the Chinese Tianwen-1 rover is small enough to fit inside the fixed lander that will carry it to the surface. Once it has safely landed, the six-wheeled rover will detach from the lander and spend the next three months exploring its landing site, Utopia Planitia, the largest impact crater on the planet. The rover and the lander will both relay the data from the surface to the Tianwen-1 orbiter, which will send it back to Earth. Although the Chinese National Space Administration did not provide many details on the exact scientific objectives of its mission, a paper about it published last year in Nature astronomy says the agency’s goal is to “carry out a comprehensive and in-depth study of the entire planet.”
On February 18, a little over a week after the arrival of this robotic delegation, NASA’s Perseverance rover is expected to land. This will involve a heart-wrenching descent to the surface, during which the rover will have to reduce its speed from over 10,000 miles per hour to a few feet per second in 15 minutes. The descent will end with a few aerial acrobatics, during which a rocket-propelled celestial crane will gently drop the rover to the surface while hovering a few tens of meters above the ground.
“Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise – landing on Mars is hard to do,” John McNamee, project manager for the Perseverance mission at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement. “But the women and men on this team are the best in the world at what they do. When our spacecraft hits the top of Mars’ atmosphere at about three and a half miles per second, we’ll be ready.