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Humanity’s Outreach to Mars

World wide efforts to discover more about Mars use fascinating technology to explore the planet. However, it is just the beginning.

Reid Kaikini

Humanity’s reach to Mars began in 1997. Due to the eccentricity of Mars, the energy required for transport between planetary orbits is optimal only every 455 days- when only half the energy for orbit is needed - this is called the Hohmann path.

Interplanetary missions sent by NASA frequently utilize efficient technologies and paths to research another planet. Currently, Mars international orbiters include NASA's Mars Odyssey, NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), NASA’s MAVEN Orbiter, Europe's Mars Express and India's Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM). ISRO’s orbiter is researching the Martian surface features, mineralogy, morphology and atmosphere using indigenous scientific instruments. The recent Hope orbiter, sent by the UAE, studies Martian weather dynamics, revealing the effects of dust storms and temperature on the combustion occurring between hydrogen and oxygen.

Aside from orbiters circling the planet, sometimes research needs a more personal touch or a touch-down. The rovers located on the Red Planet are Sojourner, Spirit, Opportunity, Curiosity, and Perseverance. To date, these rovers have discovered evidence for thermal activity, volcanoes that could support microbial life, a meteorite made of iron and nickel, and a diversity of organic molecules such as carbon.

While technology on the Red Planet is the peak of engineering, it cannot assist future astronauts to colonize Mars. NASA has recently released information detailing future technologies which will help astronauts get to and live on Mars. NASA and its partners (SpaceX, Blue Origin and Rocket Lab) are researching and developing nuclear electric and nuclear thermal propulsion. NASA is developing an inflatable heat shield to demonstrate how effective an aeroshell works in the Martian atmosphere. The use of new vehicles and suits for the astronauts as well as a nuclear power source would be essential assets for upcoming Mars missions.

While we continue to create new technologies, we can only dream of the generations who will grow up in an interplanetary species.

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