Three spacecraft home in on Mars to open new era of exploration – Astronomy Now

An artist’s impression of UAE’s Hope spacecraft in orbit round Mars. Picture: UAE Area Company

The United Arab Emirates’ Hope Mars probe, China’s Tianwen 1 spacecraft and NASA’s Perseverance rover are on the doorstep of Mars seven months after launch, all arriving inside a few week of one another to open a brand new period within the exploration of the pink planet.

UAE’s Hope orbiter is the primary planetary probe launched by an Arab nation. It was on target to brake into orbit round Mars on 9 February, firing its thrusters for 27 minutes to decelerate sufficient to slide into an elliptical “seize” orbit across the planet’s equator.

After exams and checkout, flight controllers plan to manoeuvre the spacecraft right into a science orbit measuring 20,000 by 43,000 kilometres (12,400 by 26,700 miles) to provide its three science devices – a high-resolution digicam and two refined spectrometers – a world view of the martian ambiance across the clock, in daylight and darkness.

Over the course of a martian 12 months, Hope will monitor climate techniques within the decrease ambiance, examine how atmospheric oxygen and hydrogen escape into house and gather information on processes within the decrease ambiance that contribute to that escape.

Infographic from the UAE Area Company

The day after Hope arrives in orbit, China’s Tianwen 1 spacecraft, an orbiter-lander mixture, will brake into an elliptical orbit round Mars’ poles. After mapping the world beneath for a number of months, the orbiter will launch a touchdown craft that may descend to a rocket-powered landing on a broad plain generally known as Utopia Planitia.

The 530-pound six-wheel rover, geared up with highly effective cameras, a ground-penetrating radar and different devices, will roll off the lander’s higher deck utilizing extendable ramps to succeed in the floor. The rover mission is anticipated to final a minimum of 90 days whereas the orbiter’s design life is a minimum of one martian 12 months.

NASA’s $2.four billion Perseverance rover is on monitor to plunge into the martian ambiance on 18 February, descending on to the floor. Just like the Curiosity rover earlier than it, Perseverance shall be lowered to landing by a rocket-powered “sky crane” descent automobile.

The nuclear-powered rover is supplied with a battery of refined devices and pattern assortment techniques designed to search for previous indicators of microbial life in and across the rocky remnants of an historical river channel and delta that when fed a deep lake within the bowl of Jezero Crater.

Perseverance will gather promising soil and rock samples, bundle them into small tubes and place them on the floor for eventual retrieval by one other lander in a joint NASA-European Area Company mission to choose them up and launch them again to Earth on the finish of the last decade.

Be part of us for a night on Mars

Astronomy Now’s AstroFest convention goes worldwide this 12 months. Since 1992 beginner {and professional} astronomers have converged on London to listen to concerning the newest discoveries in astronomy and house exploration. In 2021, the occasion is blasting off into our on-line world till we’re capable of meet once more in particular person.

Our Worldwide AstroFest 2021 season of on-line shows begins on 18 February when we invite you to join us for a night on the Pink Planet. You’ll hear from professional audio system after which watch stay as NASA’s Perseverance rover lands at Jezero Crater to start a brand new period of Mars exploration. This particular occasion shall be hosted by Stuart Clark and Lucie Inexperienced and attendees will get an opportunity to pose inquiries to the specialists.


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