Journey To Mars: From The Mariners To Curiosity And Beyond

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(Image Credits: SpaceX)

 

Mars is a planet which has always made us wonder, it is the most extensively explored planet other than earth. We have sent more unmanned probes to Mars than all of the manned and unmanned lunar probes combined, for decades we have been exploring this planet with orbiters and robotic rovers, but now it is time to do something more than just sitting here and examining the images and other data from these robotic rover. It is time for us humans to really go there and examine the red planet up close and if possible to make a permanent human settlement on Mars. So let us see who have been into making this dream a reality and what all are the developments that could take us a step close towards the red planet.

 

“The manned Mars mission is the next giant leap for humans to be an interplanetary species and thereby escape mass extinction if ever it happens in the future” – Elon Musk (CEO SpaceX)

 

For centuries we humans have been looking at that pale red dot in the sky, wondering what was there. Right from the time when understood that it was a planet just like our Earth. We believed that there would also be beings just like us, at least for a short period of time most of the people deeply believed that life was not special to Earth.

 

The first great support to this belief was given by the discoveries of William Herschel in the 1780s. Looking through his 12 m (40 ft) telescope he observed seasonal changes around the Martian poles which made him say that, “its inhabitants [Martians] would probably enjoy a situation in many respects similar to our own”.

 

But even more interesting observations were claimed by Percival Lowell in the turn of the twentieth century, he was a wealthy businessman who set up his own observatory in Arizona, USA and began to study Mars. Lowell claimed that he could see a network of lines crisscrossing the surface of Mars, which he believed were built to transport water from the poles around the planet. He claimed to see an incredible 160 such ‘canals’.  But unfortunately for Lowell no astronomers after him who have observed Mars have seen such features on its surface. Therefore most of his observations have been ruled out as misconceptions of the Martian topography.

 

The belief in Martian life was at its peak on the turn of the twentieth century that, in 1901, the French Guzman prize offered an award of 100,000 francs for the first person to make contact with extraterrestrials. Terms actually excluded contact with Martians as it was believed to be too easy!!! Till to date no one have bagged this prize.

 

But things have changed by the end of the twentieth century by the first even though unsuccessful missions to mars by the Soviet Union in the 1960s and with the success of NASA’s Mariner 4 which was launched on 28 November 1964 onboard the Atlas LV-3 Agenda-D rocket we got our first close up view of the red planet. And from then we have landed more than 14 landers on the Martian surface starting from the Viking missions to the last Opportunity and Curiosity rovers which are still functioning up there.

 

By the data from these robotic explorers we know that Mars is a lifeless barren desert but nevertheless we cannot rule out the possibility for us to settle down on Mars. We are moving nearer to that next giant leap for mankind to be an interplanetary species.

 

“I don’t know why you’re on Mars. Maybe you are there because we recognize we have to carefully move small asteroids around the earth with catastrophic consequences, and while we are up in near-Earth space, it is only a hop, skip and a jump to Mars. Or maybe we are on Mars because we recognize that if there are human communities on many different worlds, the chances of us being extinct by some catastrophe on one world is much less likely. Or maybe we are on Mars because we have to be, because there is a deep nomadic impulse built into us by the evolutionary process. We come, after all, from hunter-gatherers, and for 99.9% of our tenure on Earth we have been wanderers. And, the next place to wander is mars. But whatever the reason you are on Mars is, I’m glad you are there and I wish I was with you” – Carl Sagan (As if talking to a Mars rover) in Going to Mars: The Stories Of The People Behind NASA’s Mars Missions Past, Present And Future (2004), p. 152.

 

Preparations for sending human to Mars are already on the way. The main organization and private companies which are currently highly active in the game are mainly NASA and SpaceX.

 

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Journey to Mars Poster by NASA   (Credits: NASA)

 

NASA have been developing and testing the Orion Crew Module which is a key for deep space travel and also the Space Launch Systems rocket which would be the most powerful rocket ever made, it will launch the astronauts on their way to Mars. NASA have already decided to extend the operations of the International Space Station to at least and to conduct the Asteroid Redirect Mission which would capture and bring an asteroid boulder to the lunar orbit and a manned crew will conduct studies on it, this mission will be a great breakthrough and a proving ground for astronauts to work in deep space. Also NASA’s split mission to predeploy cargo and infrastructure are on the way.

 

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Click Here to download NASA’s Mars Mission Plan, ‘Journey to Mars: Pioneering Next Steps In Space Exploration’

 

 

SpaceX is also planning to put humans in Mars, but what is more interesting about their plan is that they have planned to do it before NASA. SpaceX plans to do it as near as the 2024. SpaceX is planning to launch a Red Dragon spacecraft on top of a heavy falcon launch vehicle which is a rocket that would be capable of deploying a craft into space and then return back to Earth, land vertically and then again conduct a second launch. All of these are under construction and not yet fully made. But SpaceX have been successful in landing one of their smaller rockets vertically over the launch pad.

 

Click Here to download SpaceX’s Mars Mission Presentation as PDF

 

In the fall of 2016 National Geographic aired a global even series titled MARS, a six episode documentary of our journey to Mars. As of my opinion I haven’t seen such a great program related to Mars in the near time except the blockbuster space movies like ‘Martian’. View more about the program at https://makemarshome.com .

 

That’s all for now, stay connected with us to get more updates on our Journey to Mars.

 

Recourses:

NASA’s Book: ‘Journey to Mars: Pioneering Next Steps In Space Exploration (PDF)

SpaceX’s Mars Mission Presentation (PDF)

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