This July, the United States, China, and the United Arab Emirates all launched spacecraft bound on the seven-month journey to the Red Planet.
Mankind has been sending missions to Mars since the 1960s, but just eight spacecraft have successfully landed there. If this summer’s missions succeed, China’s rover will be the first Chinese craft on Mars. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) Mars orbiter will make the UAE the first Middle Eastern country to join the “We Made It to Mars” club. So far only the United States, the former Soviet Union, Europe, and India can claim that distinction.
Mars landing is old news for the United States, but its Perseverance rover has new work to do when it lands on Mars this winter. The six-wheeled bot will search part of Mars never before explored by spacecraft and start NASA’s Mars rock collection, which a later mission will carry to Earth.
Since “endurance produces character,” (Romans 5:4) rocket scientists should have a lot of character. Space missions can go wrong—and often do—in countless ways. Yet scientists endure. They go back to the marker board again and again because they yearn to know what lies beyond Earth. They want to find out whether life once existed on Mars and if it could exist there again.
How will they know if Mars life was or is possible? They’re looking for the presence of life-sustaining water. U.S. rovers Spirit and Opportunity touched down on Mars in 2004. These robotic geologists snapped photos. They used their mechanical arms to analyze rocks and soil, eventually determining that water once existed on Mars. NASA’s Phoenix lander tested Martian water for the first time in July 2008. The robot confirmed: Frozen water lurks under the frigid Martian ground.
Ever dreamed of living on Mars? Some scientists are planning a Mars city . . . seriously! But they must conquer many challenges before that’s possible. Mars is coooold, averaging temperatures of 60 degrees below zero. How can people build habitats there? What resources will they use, and what will they do with garbage they create?
Just getting to Mars is incredibly difficult. How could astronauts possibly construct a city there? Scientists propose: Send robots first. Program them to build a home for people.
News of successful—or not-so-successful—landings for all three nations should arrive around February. And “not-so-successful” is the norm for Mars landings. Failed spacecraft litter the planet’s rocky surface.