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Two orbiters and two rovers from 3 different countries approaching Mars this month

Earth from Mars

The Red Planet is in red hot demand as spacecraft from the United Arab Emirates, China and the United States approach the planet this month. The United Arb Emirates’ orbiter will be the first one to get into Mars’ orbit which is expected to happen by this Tuesday.

In less than 24 hours, China’s orbiter-rover combo will arrive at the scene, followed by NASA’s rover that will collect rocks and soil to be flown back to Earth to study for signs of life.

Name the Hope, the Mars probe of UAE is expected to enter the orbit at around 7:42 PM (local time) on February 9, 2021. It will be the most critical part of the mission for the UAE team as the probe slips into Mars’ gravity so that it orbits the Red Planet at that time. If successful, the UAE will become the fifth country to reach the Martian orbit, after successful missions by the US, Russia, China, the EU, and India. The Hope Probe, built by the Emirati engineers, was launched from Tanegashima, Japan, on July 20, 2020.

The probe reaches Mars in the year the UAE celebrates its 50th anniversary.

On February 10, Tianwen-1, China’s interplanetary mission to Mars is expected to get into orbit. When in orbit, the orbiter will send a lander down to the Martian surface consisting of a deployable camera and a rover. The spacecraft has already begun to conduct scientific operations with the Mars Energetic Particle Analyzer while sending first pictures of the Red Planet.

The objective of the Chinese mission is to search for evidence of both past and present life and to assess the planet’s environment. A successful rover landing on Mars will make China the third country to do so after Russia and USA. The mission was successfully launched from Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site on 23 July 2020.

Within a week will arrive NASA’s Perseverance Rover mission that will seek signs of habitable conditions on Mars in the ancient past and also search for signs for past microbial life itself. In addition, the rover will introduce a drill that can collect core samples of rock and soil and set them aside in a cache to be returned to Earth in a future mission. This will help scientists study sample in proper laboratory conditions which would be impossible on the surface of Mars. The US rover will land in Jezero Crater, near a delta formed by an ancient river – a primary location for finding signs of past life if it existed.

Mars is notorious for being known as the spacecraft’s graveyard. Apart from India’s mission in 2013, no other country has ever been able to reach the Martian orbit in its first attempt. This makes it particularly challenging for the UAE mission as this is also their first attempt to orbit the Red Planet.

China while having made an earlier failed attempt in 2011 will be determined to reach the Martian surface this time making it only the third country to successfully do so.  Among all three the US mission is the most significant as it intends to bring back physical samples of Martian rock and soil that will be collected in the current mission in a future mission to Mars.


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