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Mars Remains A Puzzle As Scientists Try To Explore It
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The scientific community is taking baby steps still waddling to solve the biggest mystery of the human race. In a mission that is aimed at exploring the red planet, two spacecrafts have entered the Mars orbit within the gap of three days. NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution probe (MAVEN) arrived on Mars on September 21, while India’s Mars Orbiter Mission kept its date with the celestial body on September 24.
Despite their arrival on Mars in quick succession, the mission’s objective is different for both the spacecrafts. The MAVEN will probe the reasons for climate change on the red planet, while the MOM will look for the presence of methane, which is the most important building block of life.
The duo will join three operational spacecrafts that are already circling the Martian planet.
There are also other major missions in offing to unravel the layers of mystery from Mars. NASA will send its lander called Insight in 2016 followed by a sample caching rover in 2020. The European Space Agency, which is in the neck to neck race with NASA in Mars expedition will follow the suit by launching an orbiter and a rover in 2016 and 2018, respectively.
Mars is not the only celestial body, where there could be prospective life. The Saturn’s moon Enceladus and Jovian satellite Europa may be holding cradle of life beneath their icy shells in the habitable ocean of liquid water. So, why Mars continues to get so much attention?
The search for life on Mars is not based on fiction, but it is entrenched in the hard evidences provided by unmanned missions like Opportunity, Curiosity and other Mars craft that suggests that billions of years ago, it was warmer and wetter. There was availability of hospitable condition with lakes, rivers and perhaps oceans spread across the surface.
The quest for life on Mars was ignited by the US astronomer Percivel Lowell, who suggested that there are canals on the Mars, which may have been built by a very superior race. The concept got tokenism in its early days with his three books hitting the market, which included Mars and its Canals, and Mars as the Abode of Life. His observations were later proved to be an illusion, but he started a discussion that there is a possibility of life on Mars.
Mars has generated curiosity, because it looks very different from its earlier wetter past. MAVEN which seeks to study the planet’s upper atmosphere will give an insight into what happened to Mars’ water- did it get retreated into the crust or was lost in space?
Apart from the robotic missions that NASA and European agencies will be taking to understand the red planet in the near future, there are plans to send manned mission. The US, which won the space race with Russia at the height of the cold war to send a manned mission to the moon in 1969 has an ambitious plan to take a similar expedition to Mars by the mid 2030s as envisaged by the President Barack Obama in 2010.
Why Mars has generated so much excitement is the question that comes to the mind of vivid readers? Mars is the most suitable for scientific discoveries as its climate is compatible for explorations, other planets in the solar system like Venus and mercury are either too hot or too cold in the case of the moons of Saturn and Jupiter, which makes them unsuitable for human destination.
The momentum built over several missions to Mars also keeps the scientists hopeful and they do not want to lose on the impetus achieved after a long period.
The Martian attributes which have the potential to support life, the climate change on the planet, and its proximity to earth has motivated the scientists to demystify the secrets buried on the planet’s surface.
These expeditions will decide about the possibility of life supporting system on Mars and with several missions planned in the near future there are exciting times ahead with possibility of the first flock of humans settling on the planet in a near future.
source - janpratinidhi
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