By Elton Gomes
As Mars’ latest resident settles in, Earth is already working on three more landers and at least two orbiters who would make their way to the Red planet. NASA’s InSight spacecraft landed on Mars on Monday, November 26, less than 400 miles (640 kilometers) from Curiosity, the only other working robot on Mars.
InSight—the eighth successful Martian lander—should be able to finish two years of digging and quake monitoring by the time rovers arrive from the US, Europe, and China. Here’s the list of missions being planned for Mars.
NASA’s Mars 2020
NASA’s Mars 2020 will hunt for rocks that could hold evidence of ancient microbial life and stash them in a safe place for return to Earth in the early 2030s. The space agency is targeting a once-wet river delta in Jezero Crater.
The European Space Agency and its Russian counterpart, Roscosmos, have teamed up for this mission, which has been planned for summer 2020. Using a European rover and a Russian surface platform, the project aims to study Mars’ atmospheric gases for evidence of biological or geological activity.
China’s 2020 Probe
Landing tests are currently under way for China’s first independent mission to Mars in August 2020. It is one of four deep space exploration missions that is being planned by China’s National Space Administration. Additionally, an asteroid probe is expected in 2022 and a mission to the Jupiter system in 2029.
The Emirates Mars Mission
In the first Arab mission to another planet, the UAE Space Agency’s Hope spacecraft is set to launch in July 2020. The probe will study the Martian atmosphere, and is expected to land in early 2021, which coincides with the 50th anniversary of the founding of the UAE.
SpaceX’s Big Falcon Rocket
With a view to aid humanity’s future on Mars, Elon Musk’s space exploration company is developing a fully reusable space-launch system. The probe is set for its first cargo mission in 2022. A crewed mission could follow in 2024, creating a base from which Musk hopes to develop a thriving city.
What is NASA’s InSight lander?
NASA describes its InSight Lander as the first outer space robotic explorer that has been designed to give the billions-of-years-old Mars a “thorough checkup” by studying its crust, mantle, and core.
After a six-month space cruise, InSight landed on Mars with a single goal: to explore its deep insides. The lander is NASA’s first spacecraft dedicated to peer beneath Mars’ surface and study its interior.
How will this help people on Earth?
Jose Antonio Rodriguez Manfredi, a scientist at the InSight mission, told Al Jazeera that such a mission does not only contribute to a greater knowledge of the universe and life, but it also results in improving people’s everyday lives here on Earth.
“New materials and new technologies are constantly coming out of this type of projects which are later used in our daily life: mobile phones, the materials with which the bodies of cars or helmets are now built, medical advances that are tested in the Station International Space, among others,” Manfredi said.
Manfredi said further that these missions also shape humanity’s relationship with the universe, predicting that “it will not be long until we can see a human crew roaming” the Red Planet’s surface. Indicating that Mars still has to be explored fully, the scientist said, “Mars still has many surprises to unveil.”
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius
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