Since humanity first saw Mars as a star-like object in the night sky, the planet has captivated human beings. Early on, the planet’s crimson colour distinguished it from its glistening brothers. Each captivating in their own unique way, but none other tracing a ruddy arc across Earth’s heavens. Then, in the late 1800s, telescopes first showed a surface rich of fascinating features, patterns. Landforms that scientists initially incorrectly attributed to a thriving Martian civilization. The absence of man-made structures on Mars is now known. But we’ve also learnt that the toxic, arid world we see today may have once been just as livable as Earth, up until 3.5 billion years ago.
Humans have been exploring Mars since the 1960. An effort to learn more about how planets form, develop, and whether they have ever supported extraterrestrial life. Only unmanned spacecraft have visited the red planet thus far, but that may soon change. In order to advance exploration, numerous new missions are launching before NASA’s goal of having the first humans set foot on Mars in the 2030s. Here is a look at the significance of these missions and what we have discovered about Mars over decades of exploration.
Mission of Mars Exploration
Scientists are learning about crucial climate changes that have the potential to drastically alter planets thanks to Mars exploration. It also enables us to search for clues that might indicate if life was prevalent on Mars in the past and whether it does so currently. Additionally, the more we discover about Mars, the better prepared we will be to attempt to survive there in the future.
Mars is the fourth planet from the sun. Its size is barely half that of Earth, and its gravity is only 38% that of Earth’s. While it rotates on its axis at nearly the same speed as Earth, it takes longer than Earth to complete a full orbit around the sun. Since a day on Mars is only 40 minutes longer than a day on Earth, a year there lasts for 687 Earth days.
In Search of Life
Additionally, NASA will look for biosignatures, or telltale signs of past and present life, on Mars. For instance, the atom carbon is a crucial component of life. Where carbon is found and in what form would provide us with a wealth of information regarding the potential origins of life. We are aware that carbon dioxide makes up the majority of the atmosphere on Mars right now. The presence of these minerals would indicate that water had been there for a very long time. Potentially long enough for life to have evolved, if carbonate minerals were created on the Martian surface by chemical reactions between water and the atmosphere.
Fossils preserved in sedimentary rock on Earth are a legacy of previous life. Studies of the fossil record on Earth have shown that only particular conditions and deposits can effectively preserve fossils. Searches for lakes or streams that may have left behind comparable deposits are already being conducted on Mars.
Many spacecraft have been sent by humans to investigate Mars since the 1960s. Early missions consisted of quick flybys. Later, probes were launched into orbit around Mars, and more recently, rovers and landers have landed there.
However, it is challenging to send a spacecraft to Mars, and it is even more challenging to land there. More than 60% of landing attempts on Mars fail due to the thin atmosphere. NASA, Roscosmos of Russia, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). The four space agencies that have so far placed spacecraft in Martian orbit. The United States is the only nation to have operated a craft on the surface of the planet, with eight successful landings.