International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

Why Everyone has interest in Martian System exploration?

  1. Mars has long been the subject of human fascination. Early telescopic observations revealed color changes on the surface that were originally attributed to seasonal vegetation as well as apparent linear features that were ascribed to intelligent design.
  2. Telescopic observations found Mars’ two moons, Phobos and Deimos, the polar ice caps, and the feature now known as Olympus Mons, the solar system’s tallest mountain.
  3. These discoveries piqued further interest in the study and exploration of the red planet.
  4. Mars is a rocky planet, like Earth, that formed around the same time, yet with only half the diameter of Earth, and a far thinner atmosphere, it has a cold and desert-like surface.
  5. It is notable, however, that although the planet has only one quarter of the surface area of the Earth, it has about the same land area, since only one quarter of the surface area of the Earth is land.

NASA's Journey to Mars infographic

Then, How Mars Journey has started?

NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter entered Mars orbit in 2001. Odyssey’s Gamma Ray Spectrometer detected significant amounts of hydrogen on Mars,thought to be contained in large deposits of water ice.

The Mars Express mission of the European Space Agency (ESA) reached Mars in 2003. It carried the Beagle 2 lander, which was not heard from after being released and was declared lost in February 2004.

In early 2004 the Mars Express Planetary Fourier Spectrometer team announced the orbiter had detected methane in the Martian atmosphere. ESA announced in June 2006 the discovery of aurorae on Mars.

In January 2004, the NASA twin Mars Exploration Rovers named Spirit (MER-A) and Opportunity (MER-B) landed on the surface of Mars. Both have met or exceeded all their targets.

On March 10, 2006, the NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) probe arrived in orbit to conduct a two-year science survey.

The orbiter began mapping the Martian terrain and weather to find suitable landing sites for upcoming lander missions. The MRO snapped the first image of a series of active avalanches near the planet’s north pole.

The Mars Science Laboratory mission was launched on November 26, 2011 and it delivered the Curiosity rover, on the surface of Mars on August 6, 2012 UTC.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) launched Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) on November 5, 2013. It was successfully inserted into Mars orbit on 24 September 2014.



Wow, so finally did we find water?

New findings from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) provide the strongest evidence yet that liquid water flows intermittently on present-day Mars.

Using an imaging spectrometer on MRO, researchers detected signatures of hydrated minerals on slopes where mysterious streaks are seen on the Red Planet.

They darken and appear to flow down steep slopes during warm seasons, and then fade in cooler seasons. They appear in several locations on Mars when temperatures are above min0us 10 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 23 Celsius), and disappear at colder times.

It appears to confirm that water is flowing today on the surface of Mars.These downhill flows, known as recurring slope lineae (RSL), often have been described as possibly related to liquid water.

The new findings of hydrated salts on the slopes point to what that relationship may be to these dark features. The hydrated salts would lower the freezing point of a liquid brine, just as salt on roads here on Earth causes ice and snow to melt more rapidly.

Scientists say it’s likely a shallow subsurface flow, with enough water wicking to the surface to explain the darkening.


 What are the Garni crater on Mars?

Dark narrow streaks called recurring slope lineae emanating out of the walls of Garni crater on Mars. The dark streaks here are up to few hundred meters in length.

The spectral signatures as caused by hydrated minerals called perchlorates. The hydrated salts most consistent with the chemical signatures are likely a mixture of magnesium perchlorate, magnesium chlorate and sodium perchlorate.

On Earth, naturally produced perchlorates are concentrated in deserts, and some types of perchlorates can be used as rocket propellant.


What a Contribution by MRO in this enigmatical mission!!

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has been examining Mars since 2006 with its six science instruments.

The ability of MRO to observe for multiple Mars years with a payload able to see the fine detail of these features has enabled findings such as these:

first identifying the puzzling seasonal streaks and now making a big step towards explaining what they are?

The new findings are more proof that the mysterious lines he first saw darkening Martian slopes five years ago are, indeed, present-day water.

The discovery is the latest of many breakthroughs by NASA’s Mars missions

It took multiple spacecraft over several years to solve this mystery, and now we know there is liquid water on the surface of this cold, desert planet.It seems that the more we study Mars, the more we learn how life could be supported and where there are resources to support life in the future.

Then, Mars is more habitable than previously thought so, Can we go to Mars for living really? Yes probably. Because NASA is planning for it by 2030.

Published with inputs from Arun