All Eyes towards Mars

The only countries who have successfully operated probes to Mars are the U.S, the Soviet Union and the Europeans. Now India hopes to join this list. In the past, there have been attempts from other countries that did not make it, such as Japan with the Nozomi orbiter in 1998 and a Chinese probe that was lost. Russia had Phobos-grunt mission in January 2012, which was also lost.

If this probe is successful, it will take 10 months to reach Mars. Once it gets there, it will explore the planet’s surface, and analyze the minerals and atmosphere. India’s space research organization is hoping to collect data about the moons Phobos and Deimos to learn about the loss of water in Mars. The first earth satellite sent by India was in 1975 and their first probe around the moon was sent in 2008.

I asked Maritza Novoa what her thoughts on the India mars mission were, and she said, “I hope it is a success because it will help us understand the planet better and it’ll be a good accomplishment for the country since they haven’t gone there yet.” ISRO [India Space Research Organization] has plans to send a manned spaceflight in 2016.

On November 18, 2013 the U.S plans on having an orbiter mission called Maven [Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution]. I asked Maritza Novoa how she felt about the U.S. space mission and she said, “I’m very excited; I always enjoy hearing that the U.S. is planning a space mission and I get excited to find out what they have found out in space.” The goal for this mission is to explore Mars’ upper atmosphere, Ionosphere, and the interactions between the sun and solar wind. This will be the first mission managed by the Goddard Space Flight Center. The science teams and operations will be coordinated by the University of Colorado. NASA Goddard is going to provide systems engineering, mission design, and safety assurance. The many instruments on the space craft will be provided by the University of California, the University of Colorado, Berkley, and Boulder. The Centre d’Etude Spatiale des Rayonnements, Toulouse, France is providing the sensor for one instrument. The space craft is being developed by Lockheed Martin Corp. They are also developing the space craft, conducting assembly, testing operations, and providing mission operations at their facility. Also the navigation support will be provided by NASA’s jet propulsion laboratory.

The U.S and India are not the only two who are looking to explore Mars in the years to come. The ESA [European Space Agency], has also created a two part mission called the “ExoMars Programme”. One mission which is scheduled to be in 2016 will consist of an orbiter and a landing demonstrator. The other mission is planned to take place in 2018 and it will involve a rover. Both of these missions will be carried in partnership with Roscosmos, the Russian space agency. Their goal is to investigate the planet and to test new technologies. Also scientists want to find out if there was ever life on Mars. With their rover they plan to get samples and investigate how the water varies. They will then use a trace gas orbiter to investigate trace gases such as methane in the atmosphere of the red planet.

The other mission in 2018 will have a rover that will bring a drill and various instruments that are used for exobiology and geochemistry research. This mission, as well as the one in 2016, will include a proton launcher provided by Roscomos. The Russians mission is where I had my last question for Maritza in which I asked her what she found most interesting about the Russian mission; she told me, “Definitely that they are trying to find whether there has been life on Mars; no matter how small, it would be cool if they could find something”.