Minutes of terror when the US “minibus” arrives on Mars

There is almost always traffic jams around our neighboring planet right now. The Hope Probe and Tian Wen, from the United Arab Emirates and China, respectively, entered orbit just one week ago.

Tianwen will also send a landing craft with an accompanying vehicle, called the rover, to explore the surface. But since this is China’s first landing attempt, and Mars exploration is difficult, China is taking a lot of time to prepare – landing is not expected until April or May.

Thus, American persistence can now dominate the spotlight. He started from Earth in the last of the three, a few weeks after Hope and Tianwen in July last year, but bypassed his teammates on Thursday to go straight to the surface of Mars.

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It does not land on its own

However, the American rover is so large and heavy – it weighs just over a ton and compared to a minibus – that it cannot land on its own. Therefore, NASA uses a complex crane landing operation.

– Mats Holmstrom, a researcher at the Institute of Space Physics (IRF) in Kiruna, says it’s just amazing.

The process begins in the usual way, with missiles and parachutes gradually slowing down to nearly walking speed.

Then a so-called sky crane (“flying crane”) is used, which raises tenacity to the surface. Then, the saccharin flies away and crashes, and it’s used, Holmstrom told TT.

Once succeeded

The probe itself must take over the entire landing operation, without the aid of commands from the ground, since the distance is so large that the radio signals cannot reach it during the landing.

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NASA believes the maneuver is extremely risky, and has described the landing as a “seven-minute horror” if nothing else for the individuals sitting here on Earth awaiting the probe’s signal for how things are going.

However, they can take solace in the fact that the crane landing has already succeeded once, when the slightly smaller rover arrived at the Curiosity in March 2012. After that success, NASA short film Which shows the dramatic course of events, and the cheers that erupted upon a California land search as Curiosity sends out a signal that everything went well.

Perseverance will start, among other things, with an investment that no one has previously authorized; To bring materials from Mars to Earth. The rover will roam and mine minerals from the ground, then put samples in place for later collection. However, it remains unclear how and when the collection will take place.

It is about water

In general, there is one common theme among the current three campaigns.

On a general level, it’s still a matter of studying the water, what happened to the water, says Holmstrom.

The question of water is related to the conditions of life on Mars, whether there was primitive life there and whether man could establish a colony. Previous probes have also contributed data about the water, but there are still many aspects – and many parts of the planet – left to explore.

On board the part of Tianwen entering orbit, there is a plasma instrument that can measure how the Martian atmosphere has disappeared into space. This time, the Chinese chose to build it themselves, but Mats Holmstrom and his crew are still working in Sweden.

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“Last as long as you want”

The device is called Aspera-3, and according to original calculations it could have been used as early as 2005. But even more than 15 years later, the batteries, which are charged by solar cells on board the European Mars Express, are in operation.

Yes, I sit and send commands there every week, and it works fine, says Holmstrom.

It could be the case with space missions, either things crash immediately or last for almost any length of time.

Henrik Samuelson / TT

Humans have been fascinated by the “red planet”, and since the 1960s, the world’s great powers have been trying to explore our neighboring planet.

Because it is so far away, getting to Mars is much more difficult than reaching the moon – about 60 percent of all expeditions sent to the planet have failed.

Currently, there are about ten tentacles from Earth orbiting Mars. The same number is found on the surface of the planet.

The last three were launched from Earth at the end of July last year. Al Amal (Al Amal) is the first attempt by the United Arab Emirates to reach orbit. Tianwen-1 also signifies China’s first effort to reach the planet’s surface. The United States – with its persevering rover – is a veteran, with a number of past successful and unsuccessful expeditions to Mars.

One of the reasons for the similar timing of the three projects is that they want to be careful when Earth and Mars are as close to each other as possible. The distance is at least 55 million km, and it can be compared to 400 million km when at its longest.

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