SpaceX founder Elon Musk says journey to Mars is inside attain, with the chance of getting 1 million folks dwelling on Mars inside 100 years. SpaceX isn’t alone in working towards reaching Mars, nevertheless. The truth is, there are fairly various missions, each crewed and uncrewed, which can be at present deliberate or below proposal from authorities area organizations and non-public area flight corporations throughout the globe.
Exploration of Mars and eventual human journey to it are nothing new. Whereas manned missions have remained monetary and logistical near-impossibilities, unmanned missions started in 1960. There have been round 50 Mars missions to date, of which about half have been profitable — a testomony to the issue in reaching the pink planet.
Because it stands proper now, at present operational on the planet there may be one lander (InSight) and three rovers (NASA’s Curiosity and Perseverance, and China’s Zhurong), with one other rover (ExoMars) deliberate for launch subsequent yr. Orbiting Mars are eight satellites, offering huge quantities of information on our dusty neighbor.
It doesn’t finish there. Extra missions are deliberate for the 2022 and 2024 launch home windows, and there are proposals to put people on Mars by the 2030s.
Operational and earlier missions
This portion of the record contains the world’s most notable previous missions, most of that are nonetheless in operation.
Mars Odyssey, 2001
Named after the iconic sci-fi novel and movie 2001: A House Odyssey, Mars Odyssey is a NASA orbital satellite tv for pc that’s at present about 2,400 miles above Mars’ floor. It launched on April 7, 2001, and holds the report as the longest-operating spacecraft orbiting Mars. Mars Odyssey’s mission was to discover proof of previous or current water on Mars, utilizing spectrometers and a thermal imager to map out the distribution of water, which was efficiently confirmed on July 21, 2008, by the Phoenix lander. Mars Odyssey additionally serves as a communications relay between Earth and Martian rovers, the Mars Science Lab, and the Phoenix lander. It’s projected to stay in operation till 2025.
Mars Specific, 2003
Mars Specific was launched together with the Beagle 2 lander by the European House Company on June 2, 2003. Whereas Beagle 2 suffered a lander failure, the Mars Specific satellite tv for pc has remained in profitable communication with Earth. Mars Specific was launched with the intent of surveying Mars’ floor utilizing high-resolution cameras, radars, and spectrometers. To this point, Mars Specific has found water ice and carbon dioxide ice in Mars’ southern ice cap, together with an space of liquid water beneath, and has offered higher element of the elemental and chemical make-up of the planet’s floor and ambiance. The venture has additionally resulted in a topographical map of Mars, high-res floor photographs, and flybys of Mars’ moon, Phobos. This information has been extremely beneficial and has earned the craft a number of end-date extensions. It’s at present scheduled to stay in operation till the finish of 2026.
Mars Spirit and Alternative, 2003
The Spirit and Alternative rovers arguably signify one in every of the largest success tales of the present NASA area program. Launched individually in summer season 2003, the pair of rovers arrived on the pink planet after about six months. Initially, the plan was for a 90-day mission to examine the geology and ambiance of Mars. However the two rovers didn’t stop: Spirit would proceed to transmit till March 2010, and Alternative till June 2018! The pair of rovers are broadly credited with offering the first strong “floor fact’ that at one time” Mars was a lot wetter than it’s right now.
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, 2005
On August 12, 2005, NASA launched the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), which entered Mars’ orbit on March 10, 2006. The MRO has been observing the panorama and has made quite a few high-profile discoveries, together with the current observance of flowing saltwater on the floor and subsurface of the planet. MRO was additionally used to discover a touchdown zone for the Phoenix Lander, and acts as a relay for communications between energetic rovers and Earth.
Curiosity Rover, 2011
Like almost all different unmanned craft listed right here, NASA’s Curiosity was made to examine the panorama and local weather of Mars, comprising the rover portion of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL). Particularly, Curiosity is searching for potential proof of microbial life-sustaining situations — both previous or current — and assessing Mars’ habitability forward of human contact. Its most notable discover to date is the discovery of natural molecules on the planet’s floor in 2018. The rover is provided with an enormous array of devices and cameras and has been operational on Mars since 2012.
Mangalyaan (Mars Orbiter Mission), 2013
The Indian House Analysis Group (ISRO) launched its first interplanetary mission on November 5, 2013. Dubbed “Mangalyaan,” the craft is an orbiter that has primarily been used as a proof of idea for ISRO’s interplanetary tech capabilities, testing varied flight and communications programs, and offering telemetry information. Mangalyaan can be outfitted with a small suite of analysis devices designed to seize atmospheric information. It’s also the least expensive Mars mission to date, costing solely $73 million U.S.
The Mars Ambiance and Risky Evolution Mission (MAVEN) is at present looking for explanations for a way and why Mars’ water and ambiance have been slowly deteriorating and escaping. After getting into orbit in 2014, it was shortly ready to affirm that Mars’ ambiance was escaping into area, and additional observations discovered the planet’s magnetic area is extra like a tail, disrupted by the photo voltaic wind. This might clarify the Pink Planet’s lack of ambiance, however scientists are nonetheless investigating.
ExoMars Hint Fuel Orbiter, 2016
Launched in 2016, ExoMars is the first in a collection of joint Mars missions by means of a partnership between the European House Company and Russia’s Roscosmos. The mission truly included two probes, the ExoMars Hint Fuel Orbiter (TGO) and the Schiaparelli EDM Lander, nevertheless the lander crashed on the Mars floor after being delivered by the TGO. Researchers hope to achieve a greater understanding of methane and different hint gases current in the martian ambiance that could possibly be proof for doable organic exercise.
InSight Lander, 2018
Launched in Could 2018, with a profitable touchdown in November of that yr, the InSight Lander, brief for ‘Inside Exploration utilizing Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Warmth Transport,” goals to examine the core of Mars and observe any doable seismic exercise on the planet’s floor. It’s hoped the information collected will lead to a greater understanding of how rocky planets resembling Earth, Mars, Venus, and Mercury are shaped. In its first yr, the lander enabled new findings about the climate, geology, and magnetic fields of the planet, however its investigations have been considerably hampered by an ongoing downside with a caught warmth probe. The mission was prolonged for an additional two years in 2021, however the engineers have given up on fixing the warmth probe so the lander may have to proceed with out it.
Hope Mars Mission, 2020
Hope is a notable mission for one large motive: It marks the first Mars probe launched by any Arab or Muslim nation. Introduced by Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, president of the United Arab Emirates, Hope goals to uncover why the planet has misplaced its ambiance. The findings are additionally anticipated to assist scientists higher mannequin our personal ambiance going again some 1 million years. Launched in summer season 2020, the probe arrived at Mars in February 2021 and started its observations of the ambiance.
Perseverance Rover, 2020
This NASA mission goals to seek for proof of historic life on Mars and to perceive what the planet’s environmental situations might have been in the previous. A essential goal is for the rover to gather samples of rocks, minerals, and different supplies on Mars which might then be returned to Earth in a later mission. Launch passed off in summer season 2020, and the rover touched down in the Jezero Crater in February 2021.
China’s Nationwide House Science Middle launched its interplanetary mission to Mars in July 2020, which entered orbit round the planet in February 2021. The lander efficiently landed on the martian floor in Could 2021 and deployed its rover, named Zhurong after a conventional Chinese language hearth god. The rover will seek for water ice and look at the chemical composition of the floor, and uhe mission will function a technological demonstration of the sources and tech required for a Mars pattern return mission, proposed to happen in the 2030s.
Thanks to a launch window when Mars is nearer to the Earth, enabling shorter journeys, and a little bit of coincidence, there are fairly a couple of Mars mission launches scheduled for summer season 2020. Those on this record are not at all the solely ones. There are at least seven already confirmed missions by means of 2024, and at the very least a dozen extra by means of the mid-2040s.
For the functions of brevity, we’ll concentrate on the confirmed missions right here in depth, however we’ll additionally speak about the proposed missions in a while.
Rosalind Franklin, 2022
Named for English chemist and DNA pioneer Rosalind Franklin, this rover includes one a part of the joint ESA-Roscosmos ExoMars mission, which goals to seek for proof of previous or current life on Mars over the course of its seven-month operation. ESA will present the rover, whereas Roscosmos will provide the lander. The launch window was moved from 2018 to July 2020 due to manufacturing delays and then delayed once more due to coronavirus in March 2020. The launch is at present set for 2022.
Tera-hertz Explorer (TEREX), 2022
The Mars Terahertz Microsatellite is a three way partnership of Japan’s Nationwide Institute of Data and Communications Know-how (NICT), and the College of Tokyo Clever House Methods Laboratory (ISSL) to ship an orbiter and lander carrying a terahertz sensor to Mars. The terahertz sensor can be despatched to the floor to measure oxygen isotope ratios in the ambiance to higher perceive the chemical reactions that resupply the Martian ambiance with carbon dioxide. The lander (TEREX-1) was initially supposed to be launched as a piggyback payload with one other Mars-bound mission throughout the July to August 2020 launch window however has since been delayed to 2022. The orbiter (TEREX-2) is deliberate for launch in 2024.
Mangalyaan 2 (Mars Orbiter Mission 2), 2024
Mangalyaan 2 is the Indian House Analysis Group’s follow-up to its preliminary interplanetary mission to Mars. An orbiter has been introduced as the essential element of the mission up to now, with a lander and rover as potential additions. There was no official announcement of the launch date, however it’s anticipated to be round 2024.
Martian Moons Exploration (MMX), 2025
Japan plans to ship a probe to Mars’ largest moon Phobos in 2025. It’ll land on Phobos, gather samples, and additionally observe the smaller moon Deimos and Mars’ local weather throughout flybys of each. The probe will then ship the samples again to Earth. they’re anticipated to arrive in July 2029.
Mars Ice Mapper, 2026
NASA plans to collaborate with the Japanese area company (JAXA), Canadian House Company, and Italian House Company to ship an orbiting craft to Mars to map out water ice sources on the planet. Discovering water is a crucial step in making ready for a crewed mission to Mars, so the companies goal to equip an orbiter with two forms of radar to assist find these sources from orbit.
China’s CNSA has plans for a Martian return in 2030 to deliver again samples from the Tianwen-1 exploration. Roscosmos additionally plans to have Russian ft on the pink planet someday between 2040 and 2050. The ISRO has aspirations to launch a lander to Mars in the 2020s, and the UAB additionally plans to launch its personal Mars explorer.
Nevertheless, non-public corporations face a lot much less restriction than the above, so their area journey desires (and prospects) are way more formidable. SpaceX’s plans have been frequently evolving and arduous to pin down, however they seem to be planning some type of Mars expedition for the 2020s. Elon Musk needs to land SpaceX’s first Mars transport ship in 2022, adopted by 4 different autos throughout 2024.
Whereas this may appear lofty and aspirational (Musk admitted so himself), particularly as a result of related tasks like Mars One failed catastrophically, our mission to go to Mars is much from over. Whereas the Mars One venture confronted chapter in 2019, SpaceX continues to be going robust, and we’ve nonetheless solely simply scratched the floor of prime area exploration.