Why Countries are in Rush to Mars Exploration?

Why Countries are in Rush to Mars Exploration?


Mars often known as the ‘Red Planet’ of our solar system has been in the human imagination for centuries. Mars is the 2nd smallest planet and the most shouted planet for scientific exploration.

Mars appears in the sky as an orange-red star because of rust in the Martian rocks. The color caused the ancient Greeks and Romans to name it after their god of war.

The first-ever successful to Mars was on July 14, 1965, by NASA’s Mariner 4 mission, which is a flyby mission.

The United States and the Soviet Union are the only two countries to land a spacecraft on Mars.

In the year 2013, India became the 3rd country to launch a successful mission to Mars. The Mangalyaan mission or Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) is a “technology demonstrator” project aiming to develop the technologies required for design, planning, management, and operations of an interplanetary mission.

With the successful launch of the mission, India became the first nation to arrive on its first attempt, and the first Asian country to reach the Red Planet.


In the year 2016, The European Space Agency had launched a module bound for Mars with its ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter. The module, called Schiaparelli, scheduled to enter Mars’ orbit and land on October 19, but it crashed when landed. The spacecraft was created to detect atmospheric gases that could mean there’s active, biological life on Mars.

Recently UAE and China have launched their mission to Mars. Both countries has joined the club of elite countries that have successfully launched their mission to Mars. Important to mention that mission of the UAE and China is still in the orbit journey.

There have been many missions – successful and unsuccessful and lot many are in the development phase to Mars.

What really is the motivation or interest in exploring Mars? Why countries are spending billions of dollars on exploring Mars? Are countries are planning to colonize Mars? Are countries are planning to mine rare minerals and compounds which are not present on Earth?

The internet is flooded with many theories and hypotheses. After googling lots of articles on the internet, few inferences that are common to all articles can be concluded on Why countries are in rush to Mars Exploration?


Why countries are in Rush to Mars Exploration?

There has been so much information available on the internet, but the majority of the post talks about common information. Have picked up some popular news websites and tried to put their reports as it is.

USA Mars Mission

According to The Sunday Morning Herald

NASA’s Mars 2020 mission is step one of an ambitious plan to bring the first Martian rock samples home to Earth for testing. While past missions have looked for signs the planet is habitable, finding evidence of water underground and even past oceans on the now-barren surface, this is the first time scientists are looking for signs of life itself, says Australian Abigail Allwood, one of the lead astrobiologists on the mission.

Still, if life, even at its most microscopic level, once existed on the planet, they could find traces of it in the rocks of ancient riverbeds and lakes. The rover’s landing site, in an old lake bed known as the Jezero crater, has been carefully selected to give Perseverance the best chance.

It was in similar conditions out in the red desert of the Pilbara in Western Australia that Allwood found traces of some of the very first (microbial) life on Earth. “Back then, [3½ billion years ago], Mars was also habitable, there were lakes and rivers on the surface,” she says.

Perseverance will also trial technology that could one day help human missions to Mars, including converting the carbon dioxide of the thin Martian atmosphere into oxygen.

NASA_Perseverance_Mars_Rover_Instrument_Labels-web-USA-Rush to Mars Exploration
Science Instruments on NASA’s Perseverance Mars Rover. Image Credit: NASA

According the The Indian Express

Mars is a fascinating planet for humankind. Located in the very near backyard (about 200 million km away), Mars is a planet that humans can aspire to visit or to stay for a longer duration. Mars had flowing water and an atmosphere in the distant past: and perhaps conditions to support life.

But, in the near term, the increase in interest related to Mars is because of Elon Musk’s plans for commercial travel.


ESA and Roscosmos Mars Mission

According to Dailymail.co.uk

The European Space Agency’s Rosalind Franklin Rover, previously called the ExoMars rover, is named after the English chemist who made key contributions to the understanding of the molecular structures of DNA, RNA, viruses, coal and graphite. 

The Trace Gas Orbiter, which has been at Mars since October 2016, will act as a relay station for the mission that also includes the Russian stationary service platform. 

ESA and Russia Rush to Mars Exploration
Elements of the ExoMars programme 2016-2022. Credit: ESA

India Mars Mission

According to ISRO

The primary objective of the mission is to develop the technologies required for designing, planning, management, and operations of an interplanetary mission. The secondary objective is to explore Mars’ surface features, morphology, mineralogy, and Martian atmosphere  using indigenous scientific instruments.

The Mangalyaan – India’s Journey to Mars-Rush to Mars Exploration
Graphic outlines India’s first-ever probe to explore the Red Planet known as the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM). It could liftoff as early as Oct. 28, 2013, from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Sriharikota, India. Credit: ISRO

According to MarsDaily.com

MOM’s package of five science instruments includes two cameras (a thermal camera and an optical color camera) along with a Methane sensor are likely to generate the most interest. Methane has been detected on Mars since 2003 at varying times from Earth-based observatories, spacecraft in Martian orbit, and spacecraft on the surface.

It is highly unlikely that MOM will make any groundbreaking scientific discoveries that have escaped the American and European missions that have been scrutinizing Mars with higher specification instruments for decades. But it is possible. Detection of methane by the methane sensor along with an associated surface feature imaged by the color camera could help identify locations of the surface of Mars for further study.


UAE Mars Mission

According to Space.com

The $200 million Hope mission, also called the Emirates Mars Mission, is the UAE’s first foray into interplanetary exploration, and its arrival was designed to mark the nation’s 50th anniversary. In particular, mission planners wanted a project that would kickstart the nation’s technology and science sectors as the country looks for an economic model that can sustain it beyond its oil wealth.

Hope is equipped with three different instruments, an imager, and two spectrometers. The first will provide detailed images of the planet’s surface while all three will gather data.

UAE MARS Mission-Emirates Mars Mission Hope Probe
Image Source – UAE Space Agency

According to BBC

In particular, scientists think it can add to our understanding of how Mars lost much of its air and with it a great deal of its water.

The Hope probe is regarded very much as a vehicle for inspiration – something that will attract more young people in the Emirates and across the Arab region to take up the sciences in school and in higher education.


China Mars Mission

China is no behind in rush to Mars exploration. On July 22, 2020, China launched its first Mars mission named Tianwen-1, and aims to complete orbiting, landing and roving in one mission.

According to The Sunday Morning Herald

China’s space program is also shrouded in secrecy. Funding and specifics of such projects have not been disclosed, including the precise landing site of its Mars mission, though it is likely to touch down in the Utopia Planitia region near where NASA’s Viking 2 lander arrived in 1976. The launch of Tianwen1 on July 22 was not even broadcast live, instead appearing on state television an hour after blast-off. So far it appears to have gone without a hitch.

China Rush to Mars Exploration
China’s first Mars probe is called Tianwen-1 (formerly Huoxing 1), which means “Questions to Heaven”. (Source: China Daily via Reuters)

According to The Indian Express

The scientific goals of the mission include studying Martian topography and geology and determining the composition of the surface material, climate and environment.

The orbiter will use high-resolution cameras to search for a suitable landing site somewhere in the Utopia Planitia region. It weighs around 240 kg and will carry cameras, a subsurface radar, a spectrometer, a magnetometer, and atmospheric sensors.

According to Dailymail.co.uk

The solar-powered rover will carry ground-penetrating radar, multispectral camera, a Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy instrument, and payloads for detecting the climate and magnetic environment. 

Controversies around Mars Mission

There are some theories which talks about the colonization of Mars and build suitable infrastructure for human beings. There is an article published in The Guardian about the aspects of Mars colonization and its impact.

The article can be read here.

What Have To Conclude?

There has been something more just finding the trace of life on Mars. May be these initial mission are finding about the possibilities or may be helping in developing technologies for future human missions to Mars.

Mars has very violent atmosphere than Moon. Human mission to Mars will require a different technology be it space-craft or setting up-of a module where human beings can stay safely.

More needs to be put in the public domain about Mars’s mission. Otherwise, controversies about billions of dollars’ mission keep rising. When our planet the Earth has so many problems, Why not first fix our planet with those dollars rather than looking for Mars.

Share your thoughts in comments section about rush to mars exploration.

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