Mars Windows

This is funny.

Actually it’s hilarious.

I Googled “Mars windows” today in order to give you scientifically accurate information in this blog entry and got the following paid ad as the top result…

I have to show you the product that modernize.com is advertising…


What a totally clever use of a keyword!!

This proves that folks really are getting excited about space. Understandable, since these are exciting times.

Every two years or so (26 months), Earth catches up with Mars in it’s orbit and they get cozy…well, not too cozy. Mars at it’s closest is still a little over 199 Million miles away. It takes light several minutes to cross that distance, but it takes spacecraft six or so months. Anyway, the summer and fall of 2020 was one of those Mars “launch windows” and while U.S. cities burned, humanity sent several ships to our red neighbor.

Perseverance

For quite a few years, we’ve had a wonderful rover, Curiosity, wandering Gale Crater on Mars. Well, now that rover’s twin is about to arrive and explore Jezero Crater. This wanderer has some different instruments from the earlier rover, but will be seeking the same thing as it’s predecessor…life. This lander design is the heaviest humanity has ever sent to the surface of Mars and will attempt to land on February 18th.

Tianwen-1

China has sent their first probe to Mars and it will arrive in Mars orbit on Wednesday. They launched a combination orbiter and lander/rover to Mars back in July. The lander portion will attempt to deorbit and land on the planet surface at Utopia Planitia in April to begin its 90 day study of the soil, water-ice distribution, and the Mars atmosphere. It will of course also be looking for life. One cool thing here is that they separated a camera package from the probe back in September so that the spacecraft could take selfies!

Emirates Hope Probe

This Mars orbiter arrives today! It will study the various layers of the Martian atmosphere and attempt to measure the amount of hydrogen and oxygen loss over the course of one Martian year. When it happens, you can watch the event live on the video below starting at 9 am Eastern Time.

Now, understand something. These spacecraft will do something very difficult. I’ve often referred to Mars as the Skeleton Coast of exploration spacecraft. Some past attempts to send things to Mars litter the bottom of Earth’s oceans, orbit the sun forever, or lay as debris at the bottom of new craters on the Mars surface. Only NASA and the Soviet Union have ever successfully landed anything on Mars (and it’s debatable whether or not the Russian crash-landing can be called a “success”).

As I said before, Mars is several light-minutes away. Radio signals travel at the speed of light, so spacecraft will perform have to perform their various maneuvers on their own using pre-programmed robotics. They either succeed or die long before any news of their fate reaches Earth for anyone here to see. NASA will use their very ambitious sky crane concept to land their rover…made somewhat less ambitious by the fact that they’ve already landed many times on Mars and even used the sky-crane method once before. The UAE’s Hope probe won’t land on the surface and has a lot of help from NASA and U.S. academia and NASA has inserted spacecraft into Mars orbit many times.

China will arrive in orbit and land without any help from NASA as far as I’m aware. This makes the China effort the most ambitious and historic of the three in my opinion. We really will have to take them seriously if they pull this off. We probably should anyway just because they’re attempting it. It’s very brave to send stuff to Mars without any help from NASA.

I hope that all of these spacecraft arrive at their their respective destinations successfully and add to our knowledge of Mars in preparation for the day when people can go there in person.

Photo by SpaceX on Pexels.com

~ by Bill Housley on February 9, 2021.

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