The Mars race to the red planet has long appeared to be exclusive to the biggest billionaires and their corporate backups, but someone else has crossed the white ribbon first. We’ll talk about these folks and more in today’s episode!
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If you’re like me who loves all the news going around about the red planet, you probably would have already heard about the biggest players in the game of getting to Mars first. Of course, first and foremost, there’s the ever popular SpaceX program by Elon Musk. Then we also have Blue Origin by Jeff Bezos.You can really tell that there’s really huge interest in bagging the medal of being the first corporate entity to bring Earth to Mars. I mean, for something to get two of the world’s biggest billionaires? I don’t think they are men who like to waste time on anything they wouldn’t believe have any value whatsoever. Be honest, guys. Who among these two did you place your bets on?
Well, if you did place any money on either of them, then I have bad news for you.
After beginning their 480 million kilometer journey — or, for you Americans watching the show, about 300 million miles — mid July last year, Mars gets visited by not just one, but two unmanned space probes just this February 10th. The first one, arriving at the 9th was United Arab Emirates’ Hope, followed by China’s Tianwen-1 just about a day after.
This amazing feat placed both countries as the fifth and sixth cultures from Earth to successfully be welcomed by our vermillion neighbor. The first four to make it there were, firstly of course, the USA, followed by, India, the old Soviet Union and Europe through the European Space Agency.
Actually, if we include NASA’s Perseverance arriving by the 18th, that puts Elon and Jeff way, way behind. Keep up, boys!
As of the current moment, Hope and Tianwen-1 are already orbiting the Martian atmosphere. A Herculean challenge that they completed with flying colors.
The amazing feat that these two spacecraft accomplished is already super impressive, considering that about half of missions sent to Mars were unsuccessful. You see how many crash-and-burns SpaceX missions had in its lifetime, right?
But, okay, I know that Mars appears to be an extremely popular destination for some of the most important entities and individuals in the world, but these missions did not go there just to have a vacation. Let’s talk about what these probes were sent there to do, shall we? Let’s begin with the first to get there, UAE’s flagship interplanetary mission, Hope…or Al-Amal, as locally known in Arabic.
UAE is not entirely a newbie in terms of sending instruments in space. Officially speaking, Hope is the fourth one in their resume. You can imagine the level of sophistication in the technology that they are bringing, with the history of space missions they have already launched.
Now, let’s move on to the next visitor to our sister planet and potential future home: China’s Tianwen-1. I’d like to talk about the name for a bit before going any further, because I just can’t get over the fact that it is an extremely poetic name.
One translation of the probe’s name is “a quest for the heavenly truth”.
Last but not the least, let’s now talk about the last visitor to Mars, NASA’s Perseverance. Or Percy for short. Pretty cute name, isn’t it?
Following a long line of predecessors, one including the popular names such as Opportunity and Curiosity, this probe is tasked with a mission to know more about the Red Planet. Upon arriving within the vicinity of Mars, it’s scheduled to land on the Jezero Crater.
And did I tell you that Percy didn’t come all by himself? The rover is also carrying Ingenuity, a robotic helicopter that will serve as a part of a handful of tech demonstrations that will be carried out by the rover. The mini helicopter is aimed to determine the feasibility of flight on the red planet. Moreover, Ingenuity will fly over the landing site of Perseverance to help plan its route better, and to look for targets that could be interesting to pick up.
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