July is Mars Exploration Month

During this month, there will be three different missions to Mars conducted by three different space programs that will lead to scientists learning more and more about the Red Planet. 

On July 14th, the United Arab Emirates' (UAE) will launch its very first interplanetary operation with the “Hope Mars Mission.” The UAE Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center has worked with the University of Colorado Boulder, Arizona State University and the University of California Berkeley in order to build the Hope spacecraft. The plan is to launch an orbiter which will reach mars in the beginning of 2021 in order to study the atmosphere, weather and climate from above. This will hopefully give scientists a greater understanding of how Mars went from being a warm and wet world to the dessert-like planet it is now.

A little over a week later, China will follow this milestone by conducting their mission coined Tianwen-1 on July 23rd. The meaning of Tianwen comes from a long poem written by Qu Yuan, a Chinese poet and politician that lived in 340-278 BC. It means “Heavenly Questions” or “Questions to Heaven”. This will be China’s first home-grown spaced mission where they plan on launching an orbiter, a lander, and a 530 pound rover which will take seven months to make it Mars. The China National Space Administration plans on learning about the atmosphere of the planet from the orbiter and the geology and land with the golf car sized rover. This hefty mission will put Mars in the forefront of space exploration. 

At the end of the month, on July 30th, NASA is set to launch their own 2,315 pound rover which will land on Mars; Jezero crater in February of next year. The rover coined “The Perseverance” will use seven scientific tools in order to study the geology and search for ancient life within the 28 mile crater, with the hopes of bringing back samples to Earth by 2031. It is also equipped with a tool called the Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment (MOXIE), which will attempt to generate oxygen from the Martian atmosphere. 

These three missions are all very important to the further discovery of ancient life of Mars and the planet’s history.