Saturday, September 18

Mars exploration: five milestones you should know | Digital Trends Spanish

The extraction of a rock sample from the Martian surface at the beginning was the last in a series of significant events in the exploration of the red planet, since the first attempts in the mid-1960s. These are the five milestones of Mars exploration that you should know.

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Mars has been in the imaginary about all forms of life outside of Earth. At the end of the 19th century, the Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli claimed to have seen channels all over the planet, while his American counterpart Percival suggested that these could have been created by intelligent beings.

Although the most recent efforts have ruled out the existence of life as we know it on Earth, scientists continue to reveal the mysteries that the fourth planet still hides, as evidenced by the most important milestones in the exploration of Mars.

The First Great Approach: 1965

Preparations for the launch of the Mariner 4 probe.

The former Soviet Union pioneered Mars exploration projects in the early 1960s, but these efforts inevitably failed. Although unsuccessful, since contact was lost during the trajectory, the Mars 1 probe became the first human object to approach the planet at 120,000 miles in June 1963.

Different was the case of the US Mariner 4 probe, which was launched in November 1964. The spacecraft flew over Mars between July 14 and 15, 1965, a period in which it managed to send 21 photographs and 21 lines of the Image 22, which was interrupted.

Contrary to what the popular imagination dictated until then, the first photographs showed a desolate, desert landscape with abundant craters, the product of meteorite impacts, similar to those existing on the Moon.

The First Orbiter: 1971

The Mariner 9 Orbiter
NASA / JPL-Caltech / GSFC

In May 1971 the US probe Mariner 9 took off, which in November of that year became the first human object to enter orbit on another planet and, therefore, the first artificial satellite of Mars. When it reached its position, it managed to capture images of the great dust storms that originate in the southern hemisphere and that obscure the entire surface of the planet.

The probe sent 54 billion bits of scientific data, including 7,329 photographs that allowed the creation of the first global map of Mars, including detailed views of volcanoes, the polar ice caps, the Marineris Valley and the two natural satellites, Phobos and Deimos.

The Mariner 9 probe was shut down in October 1972, after a year of operations. It is estimated that it would enter the Martian atmosphere 50 years after being turned off.

The first rover: 1971

This is how the little one looked rover Soviet Prop-M.

Months after the arrival of Mariner 9 to the orbit of Mars, the former Soviet Union managed to successfully land its first rover vehicle as part of the Mars 3 mission, consisting of a probe, a lander and a rover.

Named PROP-M, the rover was a small 4.5 kilogram robot that was attached to the lander by a 15 meter long cable to maintain communications.

PROP-M had to be deployed after landing and performed soil analysis every 1.5 meters, in addition to its own footprints would allow knowing the characteristics of the terrain. However, shortly after landing and starting the transfer of the first images, the lander lost contact with the Earth, leaving inactive PROP-M.

Water on Mars: 2001 and 2018

Discovery of groundwater on Mars in 2018
NASA / Viking – JPL-Caltech / Arizona State University – ESA

In 2001, the United States sent the Mars Odyssey probe. After mapping the distribution and concentration of chemical and mineral elements on the planet, he confirmed the existence of ice. A finding that supported the theories of large amounts of water on Mars.

A decade later, in 2011, the rover NASA’s Curiosity landed on Mars. After almost a year of work, he found evidence of the past existence of a lake of water in Gale crater, and estimated the presence of 2 percent in the global composition of the soil.

However, the most relevant finding was recorded in July 2018. Using data from the European Mars Express probe, Italian scientists discovered an underground lake about 20 kilometers wide, about 1.5 kilometers below the cap of the south pole of Mars.

First flight: 2021

2021 was a year particularly for Mars. With three missions exploring the planet simultaneously – the United States, China and the United Arab Emirates – the possibilities of advancing knowledge of the planet are unthinkable.

But one of the biggest milestones was recorded on April 19, 2021. Moved inside the rover Perseverance, a small drone named Ingenuity made the first flight of a human device over the Martian atmosphere.

Although it was a hovering flight of only 10 feet high, in which it was dubbed the Wright Brothers Field, the 6-pound device was able to rise and overcome the thin Martian atmosphere, which is less than 1 percent the density of the earth.

Rock extraction: 2021

Image of Jezeero crater rock drilled by Perseverance.
Image of Jezeero crater rock drilled by Perseverance. NASA / JPL-Caltech

In September 2021, the rover Perseverance collected the first pair of samples from the Martian surface, which NASA intends to bring to Earth on future missions.

The rocks were collected in the Jezero crater, but NASA’s goal is to have samples from the South Séítah dune sector, in order to answer key questions, such as the history of Mars and the stability of liquid water.

The samples are sealed in titanium tubes that the rover carries on its chassis and will remain stored until sometime the rover drop them into one or more deposits, to be recovered.

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