Launching a Spacecraft to Mars

Scientists planning missions to Mars typically select launch times so as to maximize fuel savings – typically when Mars and Earth are closest together in orbit.

Plans must also include where and how the craft should land; typically this involves selecting an area with flat, low-lying terrain that will minimize risk from landing on rough terrain.

Mars Orbiter

The Mars Orbiter, commonly referred to as MRO, has been orbiting Mars for 15 years – far surpassing its intended lifespan. Serving as an data relay between NASA’s rovers and NASA scientists studying Mars better. With its high-speed data relay service and radar detecting layers of ice on Mars that help researchers study climate conditions better.

MRO’s surface images gave European scientists the ability to analyze what led to the 2016 crash of their failed ExoMars Schiaparelli lander, and even revealed opal spread across northern highlands – an indicator of water.

The spacecraft features a color camera to take color images of Mars’ surface and weighs about 1.4 kilograms in payload capacity.

Mars Rover

Mars rovers’ primary purpose is to investigate soil and rock samples for signs that life ever existed on Mars, using instruments such as panoramic and telescopic cameras as well as spectrometers.

Once on the ground, rover will use its cameras to scan for intriguing rocks with laser beams before selecting several for closer examination using its tool that cuts intact samples – approximately fingertip-sized — of Martian rocks from surfaces.

The seven-foot (2.1 meter) robotic arm on the rover acts like a human hand, featuring shoulder, elbow and wrist “joints.” A rotary percussive drill on its turret digs into the earth to retrieve rocks whose mineral and elemental composition needs analysis by the rover. Meanwhile, its brain functions similarly to that of a computer; recording power generated and stored, scheduling activities and monitoring temperatures; additionally it also carries backup computers as safety measures.

Mars Lander

Launched several weeks apart in 2003, both rovers more than met their initial three-month mission goals. Spirit found evidence of past liquid water while Opportunity found rocks formed by flowing rivers.

Both rovers utilize multiple spectrometers and drills for extracting and analyzing rock core samples on Mars. These instruments help search for signs of organic life on the planet as well as to trace how its evolution over time.

The InSight lander, led by Professor Tom Pike of Imperial, aims to probe Earth’s interior from its crust, mantle, and core. Imperial’s team – led by Professor Pike – has designed and manufactured silicon sensors for use by InSight’s Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) payload.

Mars Exploration Missions

NASA has sent numerous orbiters and rovers to Mars over time. Mariner 4 was the first mission to obtain close-up images and reveal its thin atmosphere; other missions like Spirit and Opportunity discovered evidence of water-related processes on Mars.

These missions are setting the stage for future human trips to Mars in the 2030s. Private spaceflight company SpaceX is also developing a vehicle which could transport humans directly to this red planet.

Launching a mission to Mars should take place when Earth and Mars are in alignment, which happens about every 26 months or so. This reduces fuel needs while shortening travel time – the next window opens in July 2022.

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