Mars Missions 2020
This year will see four missions launching to Mars. The timing is of course dictated by the orbits of Mars and Earth in relation to another, which open a good launch window every two years. But the number also shows how space exploration has become a global affaire instead of one conducted only by a few nations.
(Titel image ESA/Roscosmos/CaSSIS, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO )
This is part two of a mission that started in 2016. Part one brought the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) into Mars orbit and released the Schiaparelli EDM lander. The TGO has since produced some interesting science. The lander did not land successfully, proving that a) space is hard, and b) you test to learn from your failures.
Part two will now deliver the Rosalind Franklin rover, named after the X-Ray cristallographer so instrumental in the discovery of the structure of DNA. It will land using the Kazachok lander and descent stage.
One of the main instruments will be a drill to “retrieve samples from up to 2 m below the surface, delivering them to the onboard science laboratory for detailed analysis to sniff out signs of biological signatures.” (see this ESA-post for more details)
The entire mission is dedicated to help answer the question whether life has ever existed on Mars.
Mars 2020 / Perseverance
The mission will bring a rover to Mars now named Perseverance, that is based on the Curiosity rover but with all new instruments.
It will also have a drill. And it will also be about bio-signatures – to quote Wikipedia: “It will investigate an astrobiologically relevant ancient environment on Mars and investigate its surface geological processes and history, including the assessment of its past habitability, the possibility of past life on Mars, and the potential for preservation of biosignatures within accessible geological materials.”
Here is an overview of all instruments on board the rover.
It is also the first step for the proposed Mars sample return mission – which now looks like it could actually happen, as both ESA and NASA have been given budget to perform part of this complex mission.
There is also a NASA JPL fact sheet for the mission (PDF).
Here is the launch:
And here is the landing
Hope Mars Mission
The Hope Mars Mission – aka the Emirates Mars Mission – is a probe (not a lander) that wants to provide a complete picture of the Martian atmosphere and its layers and so help answer key questions about the global Martian atmosphere and the loss of hydrogen and oxygen gases into space over the span of 1 Martian year.
As it is a cooperation between the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre, the University of Colorado and Arizona State University it is also a contribution towards a knowledge-based economy in the UAE.
More details are available on Wikipedia’s Hope Mars Mission page and on the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center’s project page.
Mars Global Remote Sensing Orbiter and Small Rover - Tianwen-1
The Chinese Mars Global Remote Sensing Orbiter and Small Rover is now officially named Tianwen-1, meaning ‘questions to heaven’. The name was revealed on China Space Day, marking the 50th anniversary of the launch of China’s first satellite, DFH-1, on April 24th.
The priorities of the mission include finding both current and previous life, and evaluating the planet’s surface and environment. Solo and joint explorations of the Mars orbiter and rover will produce maps of the Martian surface topography, soil characteristics, material composition, water ice, atmosphere, ionosphere field, and other scientific data will be collected.
CNSA initially focused on the Chryse Planitia and on the Elysium Mons regions of Mars in its search for possible landing sites for the lander and its associated rover. However, in September 2019, during a joint meeting in Geneva of the European Planetary Science Congress-Division for Planetary Sciences, Chinese presenters announced that two preliminary sites in the Utopia Planitia region of Mars have instead been chosen for the anticipated landing attempt, with each site having a landing ellipse of approximately 100 by 40 kilometers.
These and more details can be found on the Huoxing-1 Wikipedia page