When it comes to the exploration of space, it is full of unknown revelations. There is always something somewhere waiting to be known or discovered. Hence, we are still in the process of discovering revelations that may leave us awestruck. Space is an intriguing field of study. Scientists, astronauts, satellites and a billion more things are related to Astronomy and its unknown surprises.
If we are talking about astronomical discoveries, the planet Mars has one hell of a tale to recite. From its discovery to spacecraft launches to revelated facts, there’s a lot more to know than we already do.
Let us traverse a little into the disclosure of Mars and learn about the journey to the fourth planet of our solar system.
A little about Mars –
Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun and is named after the Roman God of war. Due to the effect of iron oxide prevalent on its surface which produces a reddish effect, it is also known as the ‘Red Planet’. The terrestrial planet has a thin atmosphere with a surface synonymous to the caters of the moon. It has also been discovered that the surface of the planet has polar ice caps which are similar to those present on Earth. The red planet has two moons, Phobos and Deimos to be named, which are small in size along with irregularly shaped.
The Journey –
Mars has been explored several times by many unscrewed spacecraft and missions. The first-ever spacecraft to make it to the planet was Mariner 4, launched by NASA. On November 28, 1964, the spacecraft was set in motion and was the first to make the closest approach to the planet. Being the fourth in the series of spacecraft series to explore planets in a flyby mode, Mariner 4 was designed to make close scientific observations and transmit the same back to the Earth. The spacecraft contained an octagonal magnesium frame which was 127 cm diagonally and 45.7 cm in height. With an overall height of 2.89 metres, the spacecraft had four solar panels attached to the frame along with low gain and high gain antennas. The first successful flyby of Mars was performed by Mariner 4 capturing the first digital close-up images of the planet – Mars from deep space. It also detected the weak Martian radiation belt making its first closest approach on July 15, 1965.
The next mission to make revelations about the planet was the Soviet’s Mars 3 mission. The Soviet Mars program had launched Mars 3 on May 28, 1971, which was a robotic automatic interplanetary station. Nine days prior to its launch, Mars 2 – the spacecraft’s twin was set in motion with an orbiter and lander. Unfortunately, it’s lander was lost making the Mars 2 mission a failure that led to the birth of Mars 3. Comprising of a lander and an orbiter, the robotic spacecraft was launched by Proton-k rockets with a Blok D upper stage. The mission was the first to attain a soft landing on Mars on December 2, 1971. Just 110 seconds after the landing, the mission was a fail, transmitting only a grey image with zero details. However, both the twin space probes continued to revolve around Mars transmitting images of the planet back to Earth for about 8 months.
The first successful landing on the Martian surface was performed by Viking 1. Launched by NASA, Viking 1 was one of the two spacecraft (along with Viking 2) of NASA’s Viking program. Becoming the second to attain a soft landing and the first to successfully perform its mission, Viking 1 was set in motion on July 20 1976. To say nothing of, Viking 1 held the record for the longest Mars surface mission of 2307 days.
Talking about the exploration of planet Mars, the first robotic rover to operate on the planet was Sojourner. Landing on July 4 1997, the rover was the first wheeled vehicle to rove another planet, aside from being a part of Mars pathfinder mission. The rover had front and rear cameras to conduct several scientific experiments and was active for 83 sols (85 earth days). With the help of pathfinder base station, the rover communicated with Earth having its last communication session at 3:23 a.m. PDT on September 27, 1997.
On 25th December 2003, the first European space agency – the Mars express orbiter visited Mars. To explore the planet, the Mars Express mission comprised of two parts – a lander and a Beagle. The mission was designed to perform exobiology and geochemistry research on the planet. The Mars Exploration Rovers made their mark in January 2004 with rovers named as ‘Spirit’ and ‘Opportunity’. Both the rovers attained successful landing on the planet.
Creating history, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) achieved the remarkable maiden interplanetary mission with the arrival of its spacecraft. The spacecraft was named as Mars Orbiter Mission, well-known as ‘Mangalyaan’. Orbiting the planet since September 24, 2014, the space probe was launched by ISRO on November 5, 2013, making it India’s first interplanetary mission. After Roscosmos, NASA and the European Space Agency, the Mars Orbiter Mission made India the first Asian nation to reach Martian orbit and the first nation in the world to do so on its maiden attempt. The spacecraft is currently being monitored from the Spacecraft Control Centre at ISRO Telemetry in Bengaluru carrying 5 scientific instruments. Mangalyaan is a technology demonstrator mission to develop technologies for the management and operations of an interplanetary mission.
Final Countdown –
Mars has always been an intriguing subject of science fiction, movies, aerospace engineering and scientific proposals. The target of exploration is still a spot of discoveries and revelations. Scientific study and researches predict that Mars may become a living planet in future with a proper livelihood.
Curiosity rolls over the dice as NASA’s Mars mission since the past 7 years will cache Martian rock and soil samples for later return to Earth.