Air & Space (USA): this summer, three countries go to Mars

Approximately every 26 months when the planets line up correctly, you can save when sending spacecraft to Mars. To save on rocket fuel. NASA, which in this case gained a lot of experience, rarely missing the opportunity. The American spacecraft flew to Mars in the last six out of eight of these launch Windows.

This summer on the bandwagon of the Martian trains are ready to jump two newcomers: China and the United Arab Emirates. The UAE will become first Arab country, swinging on interplanetary flight. Meanwhile, NASA raises the stakes in this game starting the first part of their campaign to collect Martian samples and shipping them to the Earth.

Scheduled another launch, but because of technical delays and later because of the coronavirus joint mission of the European space Agency and Roscosmos ExoMars had to be delayed in the current window it will not get. The global pandemic is still hanging like a cloud over any plans, making it difficult to conduct the final tests and shipping the equipment to the launch pad. But as of the end of April, the spacecraft from three different countries were prepared according to the schedule to go to Mars in July to return to Earth in February.

What they want to achieve?

Hope for a new generation

The rulers of the United Arab Emirates love its technology. Whether it’s a taxi-drones or pierced the clouds skyscrapers, this mode always support risky inventions and is proud of what he is technically capable. In 2020 its space program went further, not limited to launching satellites into orbit.

In September last year, the UAE sent its first astronaut into an eight-day flight to the ISS. Now this young, oil-rich country wants to do something that is rarely addressed other space Agency intends to send the spacecraft into the Martian orbit.

His program in the UAE called “Hope”. The second name — MME (Mars mission Emirates). The goals of this mission are quite modest. On Board the spacecraft will install three cameras to study the atmosphere of Mars in visible, infrared and ultraviolet range. The ship “Hope” will go in a high orbit designed to observe different places on Mars at different times of the day during the Martian year. The spacecraft will conduct the first ever measurements in the lower atmosphere, where a Martian weather, including dust storms. Is a small niche, but very important.

At the beginning of the project scientists and engineers UAE has received an order from Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum (Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum) (whose name is space center, UAE): “Nadezhda” is to arrive on Mars before the 50th anniversary of the founding of the United Arab Emirates, which will celebrate in December 2021. As noted in the 2018 conference Fund TED project Manager Omran Sharaf (Omran Sharaf), the team also received instructions that “Hope” should make a significant contribution to science and not to repeat what others have already done. And another part of the design and engineering support had to be implemented in the UAE. “We will not buy, we will build”, — cited the words of Sharaf Prime Minister.

Space Agency, the UAE has partnered with three U.S. universities, who have long been involved in the preparation of the interplanetary missions of NASA. For the launch of the spacecraft “Nadezhda” will be used by the Japanese rocket. Mike McGrath (Mike McGrath) from the Laboratory for atmospheric and space physics University of Colorado, previously worked as a program Manager, but now has become a senior Advisor on this project three years ago moved to Dubai and is now strongly praises his colleagues from the UAE. “Everyone with whom I work, a little more than 30 years,” he says. McGrath emphasizes the glory and scientific project Manager Sarah Amiri (Amiri Sarah). “I’ve never met people of their age and situation with the same as they have abilities. It’s amazing,” he said.

This is a hint to another project goal, which is even more important than a trip to Mars. Speaking in 2018 with speech, Sharaf (bachelor’s degree he received in the Virginia University, and the engineering skills accumulated in South Korea while working on satellite Earth observation for the United Arab Emirates) stressed that the Hope project aims to inspire 100 million young people in the Arab region, to increase their interest in science and engineering, and to show them a new future that is not confined to oil alone, because it can’t support the economy of the region. “Failure on Mars is possible, he said. But the rejection of progress is unacceptable.”

China expands the horizons of research

More than 40 years since the flying “Vikings” in the 1970-ies, the Martian surface is exclusively American territory. But the Moon belongs to China, at least since the beginning of this century. Two of the lander, “Chang’e-3 and Chang’e-4”, created a small research station on the lunar surface, having made a landing there in 2013 and 2019, respectively. Both spacecraft managed to land a small Rover “WiTu” (Jade rabbit), which can explore the area in the immediate neighborhood using cameras, spectrometers and other devices.

But now China turned their gaze to Mars. The space program of this country is ambitious and methodical. She is moving forward in strict accordance with the plan, and China sometimes one gets several important victories. And instead start sending one simple Orbiter, as do other space Agency, China on the first attempt sends to Mars and the Orbiter and the Rover.

Chinese program called “Tangwang-1” (Questions to heaven) the name of the poem. A space complex weighing five tons consisting of the space station and lander. In space it will be launched rocket “Changzheng-5” (Great trek). On the Martian orbit, will occur the separation of the two parts, and the lander (in fact, it’s just a platform for the Rover) after a high speed descent in a protective casing will open the parachute and will have a soft landing, enabling the brake motor installation. During the lunar mission “Chang’e” China used when landing an impressive set of lidar and optical sensors to navigate and avoid hazards such as large boulders. The “Tianwang” are similar devices, though to land in the Martian atmosphere is more complex and dangerous than on the moon, and this may be the biggest obstacle for the pioneers in the study of the red planet.

After planting, similar to the “UTU” wheeled all-terrain vehicle (he has no name yet) will roll on the ramp with landing platform and begin examining the surrounding terrain. One of the devices “Tangwani” — radar subsurface probing — created based on a similar device that was used during the flight to the moon. On Earth, these radars are used in many fields ranging from archeology to search for underground communications. On Mars such a device no one has ever been delivered, but NASA has one radar of this type on the descent module, which will be launched in 2020. It is on the European spacecraft, the launch of which is postponed. The purpose of using radar to look at tens of meters in the depth of Mars and to understand the local Geology and distribution of rock, soil and ice.

It should be clear that the program “Tangwani” not quite the first attempt of China to get to Mars. In 2011 there was an attempted delivery to a Chinese Mars probe “inkho-1” together with the Russian spacecraft. But because of the emergency situation on the launch, the rocket with the spacecraft landed in the Pacific ocean. Of course, it was a failure. But then the Chinese space program was younger, and experts had less confidence.

Collector Martian soil

In 2011, when the American planetary scientists asked the question of what major projects should receive Federal funding in the coming decade, they are primarily allocated to a flight to Mars to collect soil samples. Actually, it needs two flights. During the first collects samples of rock and soil which had been stockpiled on Mars. And during a later second flight these samples are delivered to Earth for detailed study, that Mars can be done. In the first part of this plan will involve NASA’s Mars Rover “Perseverance”. Its launch is scheduled for July 17 from Cape Canaveral, and it will be the most technologically advanced mission to Mars.

Having established in previous studies that Mars was once suitable for life, scientists now want to understand whether it was once a habitable planet. To answer this question is more difficult because there is currently no accurate biological signs of life — except that notice galloping on the Martian surface kangaroo. Most likely, the preliminary answer to by researching various data on the chemical composition and physical characteristics of the rock, which will show the presence of biological traces. The objective of the Mars Rover “Perseverance” — to find the most promising soil, which may contain organic residues.

At first glance, the mission 2020 seems to be a repeat of the expedition Rover “Kyuriositi”, which is now in its eighth year, explores Mars. “Perseverance” also weighs a ton, is roughly the same size and design. He has the same system of “flying winch” (it’s a bit scary and like a helicopter), which will be used for lowering the apparatus on the surface of Mars.

But there are many improvements compared to the previous mission, starting from the landing, which is selected as the crater Lake. All scientific knowledge gained in 20 years of studies of the Martian robots, we have decided to choose this place. It’s dried up Delta of an ancient river and lake bottom, where the water at the time was to put a variety of rock samples from different geological locations and periods.

“Perseverance” will use a number of ways to quickly get to your destination. Among them a method called “descent on a set of values”, in which can vary the time of opening the parachute at the entrance to the atmosphere depending on the proximity to the goal. Most of the instruments on Board the Rover are improved versions of instruments on Curiosity. Navigation cameras give clearer picture, which was colored and not black and white. Even upgraded the wheels to improve traction with sand.

The biggest achievement was the system of storage of the samples (Sample Caching System). Arriving at a promising area and finding a rock sample or soil, which may contain useful information (spectrometer “Sherlock” and another device can identify organic substances), all-terrain vehicle with two-meter robotic arm and the drill can collect up to 14 grams of material, which is placed in a sterile metal container. At least 30 such containers will be left on the earth’s surface in a specially designated “storage areas”, like the bottles with the messages. These samples will wait for their pick up. Containers can keep air-tightness on the surface of Mars for at least 10 years.

“Perseverance” will also run a tiny helicopter, and this will be the first flight with the engine running on another planet. Experimental setup and MOXIE (MOXIE) will attempt to extract oxygen from the Martian atmosphere. It will be a prototype device, which the astronauts will need on Mars for the production of rocket fuel and breathable air.

From this risky mission cost $ 2.5 billion, much depends. While there is no guarantee that scientists will be able to prove the existence of life on the red planet in the past (or to refute this idea). The second part of the programme for the delivery of samples to Earth is planned for 2026. It will certainly be much more expensive, and funding while there is no guarantee. But NASA has a plan, and the space Agency adheres to it. Maybe that’s why it’s called the Rover “Perseverance” (perseverance)?