UAE sets the tone for Mars missions - GulfToday

UAE sets the tone for Mars missions


The UAE's Hope Probe.

February could be called a red-letter month, as three missions to the Red Planet saw fruition during this period. The UAE showed the way, with a lot of Hope. It was the Hope Probe that was the trailblazer. Its entry into Mars’ orbit on Tuesday evening made international headlines and pitchforked the country’s space ambitions into a wholly different realm. This was followed by China’s Tianwen-1 probe which became the second spacecraft to reach the planet this month.

 Then came the American Nasa rover Perseverance, which landed on the Red Planet on Thursday.

All three missions lifted off in July to take advantage of the close alignment of Earth and Mars, journeying some 300 million miles in nearly seven months.

A little over 50 years ago, the astronaut Neil Armstrong made a classic comment after the historic landing on the moon: “A giant leap for mankind.”. A similar feeling courses through the veins of humanity when a Nasa rover streaked through the orange Martian sky and landed on the planet on Thursday. Perseverance ultimately pays off: it shows that Man is able to map frontiers hitherto untrammelled by any other species before.

The rover accomplished the riskiest step yet in an epic quest to bring back rocks that could answer whether life ever existed on Mars.

The first pictures taken by the rover showed the Red Planet’s surface.

But they also represented the first images from a rover that Nasa hopes would be able to find evidence of alien life.

The second image was a bit clearer, and showed even more of the ground.

The images arrived to earth over 11 minutes after they were taken, because of the delay caused by any messages having to travel through the vast expanse of space.

Perseverance, the biggest, most advanced rover ever sent by Nasa, became the ninth spacecraft to successfully land on Mars, every one of them from the US.

The exultation was all too palpable. Ground controllers at the space agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, jumped to their feet, thrust their arms in the air and cheered in both triumph and relief on receiving confirmation that the six-wheeled Perseverance had touched down on Mars, long a deathtrap for incoming spacecraft.

It took a tension-filled 11 1/2 minutes for the signal to reach Earth.

“Touchdown confirmed! Perseverance safely on the surface of Mars, ready to begin seeking signs of past life,” flight controller Swati Mohan announced to back-slapping, fist-bumping colleagues wearing masks against the coronavirus.

Scientists believe that if life ever flourished on Mars, it would have happened 3 billion to 4 billion years ago, when water still flowed on the planet.

Mars has proved a treacherous place: In the span of less than three months in 1999, a US spacecraft was destroyed upon entering orbit because engineers had mixed up metric and English units, and an American lander crashed on Mars after its engines cut out prematurely.

Perseverance will conduct an experiment in which it will convert small amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere into oxygen, a process that could be a boon to future astronauts by providing breathable air and an ingredient for rocket fuel.

The mission brings to the fore some questions that have always nagged humans. As Nasa’s deputy project scientist Ken Williford remarked, “Are we alone in this sort of vast cosmic desert, just flying through space, or is life much more common? Does it just emerge whenever and wherever the conditions are ripe? We’re really on the verge of being able to potentially answer these enormous questions.”

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