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History and significance of Mars Missions

Synopsis: Questions related to Mars Missions are still answered. However, the hope of finding life on the planet excites humanity for further exploration of Mars.

Background:

  • Recently, as a part of Mars mission 2020, NASA launched orbiter Perseverance into Mars.
  • Mars 2020 is a Mars rover mission forming part of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program. It includes the rover Perseverance and the small robotic helicopter Ingenuity.
  • The rover Perseverance will explore Jezero crater and look for carbonate rocks that might hosts Stromatolites.
  • Stromatolites are layered sedimentary formations that are created by photosynthetic cyanobacteria. They signify the possibility of life on Mars.
  • The predecessor of the Perseverance orbiter is the Curiosity rover. It is surveying and testing the Martian surface since 2012.
  • The launch of Mars 2020 was the third of three space missions sent toward Mars during July 2020. Other missions include the Emirates Mars Mission with the orbiter Hope and China’s Tianwen-1 mission.

Why Mars missions are undertaken?

The possibility of life and water is high on Mars compared to other planets in the solar system. It can be inferred from the following findings

  • During the 19th century, astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli reported that he had seen water channels on the red planet.
  • Later, another astronomer Percival Lowell talked about hundreds of canals on the equatorial region of Mars. He claimed that he was able to notice that through his telescope set up in the desert of Arizona.
  • After that, high-resolution cameras confirmed the networks of channels that might have been created by running water.
  • Also, in 2005, the Mars Express satellite found evidence of clays that may have formed after solid rocks were exposed to water.
  • In addition to this, the Curiosity rover detected carbon-containing compounds in Martian rocks and shifting levels of methane molecules in the planet’s atmosphere.
  • Two papers published in the journal Science in 2018 concluded that these findings support the possibility of the existence of microbial life.

Owing to these developments Humans want to explore Mars for two reasons,

  • One, the curiosity of humans to look for alien life forms in the solar system.
  • Two, Historically, Mars has always been viewed as a backup site for humanity to migrate. For example, entrepreneurs like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk are proponents of this concept.

Yet, Mars has not delivered significant findings confirming the presence of life forms, and the quest for discovering potential life forms in Mars continues.

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