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Essay, Paragraph or Speech on “Missions to Mars” Complete Essay, Speech for Class 10, Class 12 and Graduation and other classes.

Missions to Mars

 

The omnipotent creature on Earth–the human has always been trying to explore the surface of the red planet Mars–Earths close neighbour for more than 40 years. Two major space powers, the European Union and the USA started the race for space supremacy to Mars when spacecraft Beagle-2 landed on Mars on December 26, 2003. On the contrary, Spirit a six-wheeled Mars exploration rover developed by NASA reached Mars on January 4, 2004. Its companion Opportunity arrived on the other side of Mars on January 25, 2004. A third Mission Nozomi (means hope) by Japan failed to make it to Mars.

Since 1960 two thirds of the Mars missions failed. The current surge in Mars exploration can be attributed to the signals picked up by the 2001 Mars Odyssey Mission which indicated that water had once existed on the Red Planet. The success of the Mars rovers mission further enhances the enduring quest for life on the Red Planet and increases the possibility of sending a manned mission there.

Mission MER—The Mars Exploration Rover- (MER) project is a part of the long term Mars Exploration Programme of NASA. It is basically a science driven programme with a focus on understanding whether life is possible on the planet Mars.

The goal of the rover mission is to determine when and how water, which was really there, disappeared. Since water is crucial for life, the mission will also search for water. It will explore the Martian surface as it treks around searching the rocks and soils for clue to water.

It is actually a twin rovers mission. The objective was to deliver two mobile laboratories for geological investigators on Mars. Spirit was launched on June 10, 2003 and Opportunity on July 7, 2003. Both carry an identical set of instruments. The Rovers can look around with a stereocolour camera and with an infrared instrument that can classify rock types from a distance; thus both rovers (Spirit and Opportunity) are able to carry out the first ever detailed geological studies.

Spirit—NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Spirit was successfully driven off on the soil of Mars on January 15, 2004. Spirit landed inside Mar’s Gusev Crater on January 3, 2004. The major tasks of the Spirit is to explore the clues in rocks and soils about whether Gusev Crater was ever watery and suitable for life. The region around Spirit’s landing site appears to be Criss-crossed by the trails of dust particles and mission planners chose to land there because the crater appears to be dried up lake bed. If indeed it was filled with liquid water long ago, than it might have been habitat for ancient martian life.

Opporutnity—The opportunity rover landed safely on Mars on January 24. Compared to Spirits’ rock strewn landing site in Gusev Crater on the other side of the Mars, the terrain around Opportunity is darker and remarkably smooth. Opportunity is in place called Meridiani Planum–a broad plain rich in the mineral grey hematite. On earth such hematite usually cause the formation of water and scientists have long wondered if the hematite on Mars formed under water too. Perhaps long ago Meridiani Planum was wet and hospitable to life. Opportunity will try to find it out with on-board geology tools.

 Both Spirit and Opportunity which are identical, are larger, more mobile and better equipped than the 1997 Mars–Pathfinder rover called Sojourner. Each rover has a mass of nearly 180 kg and is expected to travel about 40 meters per Martian day. Surface operations have been planned for 90 sols (92 earth days) for each rover.

Launched by Delta rocket, the MERs use the same airbag cushioned landing scheme that successfully delivered the Mars Pathfinder rover for entry, descent and landing. But unlike the Pathfinder mission, wherein the instruments were divided between lander and the small rover. Spirit and Opportunity carry all the instruments. Soon after the landing the rovers began reconaissance of the landing site. Each rover has six scientific instruments.

(1) Pan Cam

(2) Miniature Terminal Emission Spectrometer.

(3) Massive Spectrometer.

(4) Alpha-Particale X ray Sepectrum.

(5) Microscope Imager.

(6) Rocke Abrasion Tool (RAT)

The water trail has essentially diluted the first choice of the landing sites for the rovers. It requires more than two years of study by over hundred scientists and engineers to evaluate potential sites using information from the two orbiters.

At the next step Mars Exploration Rover project will be followed up by missions upto 2009 beginning with Mars Reconaiassane orbiter in 2005, Phoenix Mars Scout in 2007, Mars Science Laboratory in 2009 and Mars Telecommunication Orbiter in 2009. In the next decade there will be transition from following the water to a search for building blocks of life. Even a man-aged mission to Mars may well take place. The Russians too have already announced their plan for a manned mission to Mars as an international space mission by 2003.

Possibility of Water_ The recent photographs taken from these rovers show evidence for the most catastrophic floods on Mars. After seeing pictures it seems large channels carried by these floods drained into the northern plains, lending support for the existence of an ancient ocean. Most of the northern hemisphere valley networks that criss cross the southern highlands were also probably formed by water. Many craters especially high latitudes are surrounded by fluidised ejecta. It resembles ring of the splattered debris around a stone dropped in soft mud. Thus it suggests that there was underground water or ice in early time and possibly more recently.

Images received from the Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Odyssey missions gave enough evidence of a relatively recent ice age on Mars. From known estimates of the planets orbit and axis tilt scientists estimate that ice age might have occured just 400000 to 2.1 million years ago-quite recent in geological terms. This indicates that Mars is a dynamic planet undergoing climate change even in more pronounced way than on the earth.

Thus water could have been lost to space, trapped underground or both. The recent mission will observe the atmosphere and reveal processes by which water vapour and other atmospheric gases could have escaped into space. They will also examine the surface and in the process add to knowledge about where water may have once have existed and where it could still lie underground. The initial mapping of the South Polar cap of Mars on January 18, 2004 has revealed the presence of water ice and carbon dioxide ice.

Signs of Life— Where there is water there could be life. Meteorites from Mars that have landed on earth show clear evidence that conditions appropriate to life did exist on Mars in the recent past. Unfortunately we can not be sure that organic matter found in the meteorites is the remnant of organisms that lived on Mars and not a part of earth.

The Mars mission rovers will look for signs of life on Mars by measuring the rates of two different types of carbon in the rock. Biological processes on Earth favour the lighter isotope of carbon-carbon 12 over the heavier carbon 13. Hence a high carbon 12 to carbon 13 ratio is taken as evidence of life. It has been found in rocks upto 4 billion years old even where biological processes have occurred on Mars. If carbon 12 to carbon 13 ratio is taken as evidence it is hoped that biological processes might have occured on Mars.

Facts About Mars

Orbit                                                              227,940000 km (152 Au) mean distance from the sun. Diameter                                                      6794 km

Martian Day (Sots)                                                24 hrs. 37 minutes and 22 seconds

Martian Year                                                           669 martian days (solar) 687 Earth days

Average Temperature                                          218 K (– 55°C)

Min. Temperature                                                 140 k (– 133°C) winter pole

Maximum Temperature                           300 k (27°C) summer dayside

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