NASA’s rover Perseverance Mars recently landed on the red planet. It was launched on July 30, 2020 under the Mars 2020 mission, exploiting the phenomenon of closest access. But how many countries have launched a mission to Mars? How many were successful? Here are all the details.
Geographical and other conditions on Mars are close to Earth’s, resulting in speculation that there is a possibility of life on the red planet. Mars is just over half the size of Earth with a gravity of only 38% of Earth’s gravity. Roughly, the land area on Mars is equal to the area of the continents on Earth. Scientists have also suggested that there must have been a vast ocean on Mars ’northern hemisphere. Some other visible features on Mars may be those of ancient fluids such as river valleys, streams, deltas and basins, according to Martian experts.
The distance between Mars and Earth is the smallest once every 26 months
Approximately once in 26 months, Earth and Mars are arranged so that the distance between the two is closest. Many missions to Mars took place during this period because it is travel time and therefore the costs will be the lowest. Therefore, most missions to Mars are launched approximately every two years during that period. The last time Mars came closest to Earth was on October 6, 2020. The next approach to Mars up close is on December 8, 2022, when the Red Planet will be only 62.07 million kilometers from Earth.
NASA’s perseverance has landed on Mars
A rover is a vehicle used to explore the surface of a planet or moon. NASA Perseverance The Mars rover that recently landed on the red planet was launched on July 30, 2020 as part of the Mars 2020 mission, taking advantage of the closest approach phenomenon. The key objectives of the 2020 mission are to look for signs of ancient life and to collect samples of rocks and regolith (broken rock and soil) to return to Earth, if possible. The Rover of Perseverance landed on Lake Crater, where it will explore the river delta that once flowed into the lake that the crater once held. Sediments are a promising place in the search for fossil chemical signatures of ancient Martian microbes. NASA has also released a video of the landing.
NASA’s next mission to Mars, known as the Mars Sample Return, is planned for 2022 during the next closest approach. As part of the Mars Sample Return mission, as the title suggests, efforts will be made to return samples of Martian rocks and soil that Perseverance collected back for research purposes.
Dozens of spacecraft have been sent to Mars since the 1960s
Dozens of spacecraft have been sent to the red planet since the 1960s. The initial missions consisted mainly of fliers and spacecraft that took many photos of Mars as they zoomed past the planets. With advances in science and technology, later probes enter the orbit of Mars. Now the landers and rovers have landed on the surface of Mars. However, only about 60% of these missions were successful.
Many other countries have begun exploring Mars alongside the United States and Russia
Between 1960 and 1996, the United States and the Soviet Union (and later Russia) were the only countries to attempt missions to Mars. In fact, out of a total of 48 missions recorded so far, the US and the USSR (Russia) make up 43. Apart from these two countries, only India, China, Japan, the UAE and the European Space Agency have carried out missions on Mars. While Japan launched its mission in 1998 and Europe in 2003, the remaining three completed their missions only after 2010.
Details of the missions of countries other than the United States and Russia are;
1998 Japan tried to send a Nozomi orbiter to Mars to study its upper atmosphere. Japan is the first country besides the US and Russia to send a spacecraft to Mars. But the mission failed due to fuel problems. Although the mission was unsuccessful, the spacecraft provided key information about the deep space environment.
Later, in 2003, European Space Agency sent a Beagle 2 lander to the Mars Express Mission which was released from the home voyage in December 2003. But nothing was heard from the lander after the scheduled touchdown.
Chinese Yinghuo-1 and Russian spacecraft Phobos-Grunt were launched together in 2011. Yinghou-1 is not only China the first orbiter of Mars, but also the first Chinese interplanetary mission. Phobos-Grunt sent to study the Martian moon and return soil samples to Earth was the first Russian interplanetary mission after the failure of the Mars 96 mission. However, this mission was unsuccessful due to the failure of the spacecraft.
In 2013, India created history by becoming the first Asian country to reach Mars orbit. India also became the first country to successfully enter Mars orbit in its first attempt. The Indian mission Mars Orbiter was sent to investigate the surface features of Mars, the morphology, mineralogy and atmosphere of Mars to investigate the possibility or past existence of life on the planet.
The ExoMars program was a joint mission European Space Agency and the Russian Space Agency (Roscosmos). The Schiaparelli EDM (entry, landing and landing module) was launched in 2016 together with the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter in search of evidence of methane and other atmospheric gases. The orbiter successfully reached the orbit of Mars, but the connection to EDM was lost upon arrival.
The UAE and China also sent aircraft in 2020
In addition to NASA’s perseverance, United Arab Emirates and China they also launched their own spacecraft to Mars in the 2020 approach window. The UAE launched its ‘Hope’ spacecraft into orbit around Mars on July 20, 2020 and studied its atmospheres and weather patterns, making the UAE the fifth country to launch a spacecraft into Mars orbit. Within 3 days China launched Tianwen-1, a combined orbiter, lander and rover. The Chinese spacecraft has reportedly entered a temporary orbit around Mars and the rover is expected to land on Mars in the coming months. If the mission succeeds, China will be the third country after the United States and Russia to land on Mars.
The list of all missions to Mars in chronological order and by country is given below:
More missions are planned for the next decade
Over the last decade or so, it has been observed that other countries have also begun to participate in interplanetary research that was once dominated by the United States and Russia. In fact, many missions to Mars are planned for the next decade. These are ISRO’s Mangalyaan-2 or Mars Orbiter Mission-2 planned for 2024, ESA’s rover ExoMars planned for 2022, and NASA’s return of Mars samples planned for 2022 as we saw earlier. SpaceX plans to transport cargo and people to Mars in the near future.