The Red Planet is about to get a little crowded

Edited By: Gravitas desk WION Web Team
New Delhi, Delhi, India Published: Feb 11, 2021, 10:53 PM(IST)

A representative image of Mars Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

The foray into space is part of the UAE's diversification drive. Once the oil taps run dry, they will have to fall back on science and technology.

Reaching Mars is the pinnacle of scientific prowess and perhaps, a crowning moment for any nation. But the race to the red planet also stands to crowd its orbit.

Three separate missions to Mars launched by the United States, China and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) all reached their destination in July, 2020 after taking flight within just 11 days of each other.

UAE's Hope mission lifted off on July 19, China's Tianwen-I on July 23 and US' mission on July 30.

Why July? Because the month offered a unique launch window with minimum fuel requirements.

The UAE's hope was the first to arrive. Al Amal will spend 687 days — a period equivalent to one year on Mars — gathering information on the Martian atmosphere and surveying the planet’s weather patterns throughout its four seasons.

Omran Sharaf, Project Director, Emirates Mars Mission, to this end, said, "For us as a nation, we look at this mission as 90 per cent of it has been achieved. Because this mission was never about just reaching Mars. The government was very clear since day one when this mission was announced that reaching Mars is just a means for a much bigger objective and goals."

The foray into space is part of the UAE's diversification drive. Once the oil taps run dry, they will have to fall back on science and technology.

And space missions will be crucial here.

Following Hope, the Chinese probe reached Mars. Inside the spacecraft, there was a rover of the size of a golf cart.

In a few months time, it will detach from the orbiter, and descend to the martian surface.

Later this month, another visitor will descend on Mars -- probe missions from NASA.

Wu Yanhua, deputy director of the China National Space Administration, said, "We had success this time. But it's just the first step of our long march. We will carefully prepare for and carry out orbiting, landing and detection in the future. We look forward to a big success of the mission."

By February 18, NASA's Mars 2020 should also be in orbit.

Like China, the American mission too is hoping to land a rover.

Collectively, these missions will enhance our knowledge about Mars and its habitability.

The success of the UAE's Hope mission is also an open challenge. It shatters the perception that only world powers can reach for the stars.

Robert Zubrin, president of the Mars society, says, "You know, if the UAE can launch a Mars mission, then Switzerland can launch a Mars mission, and New Zealand can launch one, and South Korea or Taiwan can launch. They all have resources on that scale. So, in a certain sense, it throws down a challenge. Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, name it, okay. Why haven't you done a Mars mission?"

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