Science

Digging deep into the Red Planet: Countries race to find signs of life on Mars

Hemani Sheth Mumbai | Updated on July 12, 2020 Published on July 12, 2020

A lander for China's Mars mission is seen after a hovering-and-obstacle avoidance test at a test facility in Huailai, Hebei province, China.   -  Reuters

Space explorers are attempting to find signs of past life on Mars, with three countries launching special missions to the red planet this summer.

Over the next couple of months, the US, China and the UAE will launch individual missions to Mars to check for signs of past life and to investigate the atmosphere of the planet.

While researchers believe it is far-fetched to assume that the planet can sustain life, explorations for a record of life on the planet can provide more insights. Researchers believe that Mars is the best bet for finding signs of extraterrestrial life, according to an AFP report.

The report, quoting president of French space agency CNES, Jean-Yves Le Gall’s recent conference call with presspersons, said it is "the only planet with concrete chances of finding traces of extraterrestrial life because we know that billions of years ago it was inhabitable".

According to Profesor Ray Arvidson of Washington University, St Louis, previous robot missions to the planet have shown that it is not an entirely dead planet. Signs of dried out lake beds and rivers along with other organic material have been found on the planet, the Guardian reported.

These missions can help researchers determine signs of evolution of life on the planet similar to earth, if any, and to see if some of that life still exists underground, the report said.

The US’ mission to Mars will be led by NASA. It is slated for launch between July and August.

“NASA and the United Launch Alliance recently updated the mission's launch period – the range of days the rocket can launch in order to reach Mars. It now spans from July 30 to August 15,” NASA said in an official statement. “No matter what day Perseverance lifts off during its July 30 to Aug. 15 launch period, it will land in Mars' Jezero Crater on Feb. 18, 2021.”

The rover “will search for signs of ancient microbial life. It will also characterize the planet's climate and geology.”

China is also set to launch its mission to Mars, Tianwen-1. No launch date has been specified yet. Under the mission, a three-in-one spacecraft consisting of a satellite, a lander, and rover will be sent to the planet to search for features such as water and ice, the Guardian reported.

The UAE’s mission, called the Emirates Mars Mission (EMM) or Hope, is scheduled to launch on July 15 on a Japanese H-2A rocket from the Tanegashima Space Centre.

“The Emirates Mars Mission (EMM) ​is the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) ​first mission to Mars. EMM is designed to ​orbit Mars and study the dynamics in ​the Martian atmosphere on a global scale, and on both diurnal and seasonal timescales. Using three scientific instruments on boardthe spacecraft, EMM will provide a set of measurements fundamental to an improved understanding of ​circulation and weather in the Martian lower and middle atmosphere,” said an official description of the EMM.

Follow us on Telegram, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Linkedin. You can also download our Android App or IOS App.

Published on July 12, 2020
  1. Comments will be moderated by The Hindu Business Line editorial team.
  2. Comments that are abusive, personal, incendiary or irrelevant cannot be published.
  3. Please write complete sentences. Do not type comments in all capital letters, or in all lower case letters, or using abbreviated text. (example: u cannot substitute for you, d is not 'the', n is not 'and').
  4. We may remove hyperlinks within comments.
  5. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name, to avoid rejection.