Mars 2020 — The first helicopter to fly over another planet
After Sojourner, Opportunity, Spirit and Curiosity, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) plans to launch Mars 2020 — a newer and upgraded rover to explore the Red Planet.
Even though it doesn’t yet have a name, NASA revealed that the rover is going come equipped with its own helicopter. It will be able to conduct its own little exploratory missions on the planet by flying over the surface.
If successful, the helicopter will be the first heavier-than-air object to fly on another planet.
The rover is carrying new technology to help test ways of using the existing resources on Mars to support human colonisation — or at least improve designs for life support and transportation.
Hope Mars Mission — The UAE’s first tryst with space beyond Earth’s orbit
Unlike NASA, the United Arab Emirates has no plans on actually landing on Mars. This will be the gulf country’s first mission beyond Earth and they plan on putting an orbiter around the Red Planet.
Scientists believe that Mars was once just as abundant as Earth with plenty of water to go around. But somehow, life never took hold. The Hope orbiter’s objective is to help provide some answers with the first ‘truly global picture of the Martian atmosphere’.
The ultraviolet spectrometer — the main instruments onboard — will measure oxygen, hydrogen and other gases as they escape. The UAE Space agency claims that this will help astronomers better understand how the planet’s atmosphere works and whether or not it will, once again, be fit to support human life.
ExoMars — Looking under the Red Planet’s surface
The European Space Agency and Roscosmos are collaborating to send their own rover to Mars. As NASA’s Mars 2020 mission will fly above the Red Planet’s surface, ExoMars will drill below the surface.
This will be the first time that anyone will go as deep as 2 meters below Mars’ surface to find out what lies underneath — and it’s on the hunt for signs of life.
The rover will drill into the planet’s crust, collect samples and then bake them at temperatures of up to 900 degrees Celcius to 30 single-use ovens. If anything that alive gets charred in the process, the resulting vapours will be smelly enough to let ExoMars know.
China plans to explore Mars the Chandrayaan 2 way
India’s second mission to the Moon, Chandrayaan 2, deployed an orbiter, rover and lander to explore the lunar surface and its origins. China has similar plans for Mars. Its Huoxing-1 mission plans to launch in July with three different modules.
It will be carrying an orbiter which will circle the planet and eventually drop a lander onto the Mars’ surface, which will release a rover to explore the Red Planet’s terrain.
The rover will study the Martian topography and the environment but it also has another primary objective — to search for possible signs of life.