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Three big missions set to take off for Mars this month as Earth and Mars move closer

Jon Lockett, July 15, 2020 7:20AM The Sun

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Jezero Crater on Mars, the landing site for NASA's Mars 2020 mission, part of an image taken on December 28, 2019 by instruments on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Picture: AFP/NASA media_cameraJezero Crater on Mars, the landing site for NASA's Mars 2020 mission, part of an image taken on December 28, 2019 by instruments on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Picture: AFP/NASA

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Outer space could experience an interplanetary* traffic jam as three rival* missions leave Earth to explore Mars.

The US, China and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will this month all send probes* on a new quest to discover whether there has ever been life on Mars.

The missions are all leaving now to take advantage of the next Mars Close Approach. According to NASA, on October 6, Mars will be within 62 million kilometres of Earth.

That will mean the journey will take six or seven months rather than up to the usual nine months. A Mars Close Approach happens about every 26 months.

The first mission to begin is the Hope probe of the UAE.

Also known as the Emirates Mars Mission, it was due to launch late on Tuesday, July 14 though bad weather has delayed the launch to Friday, July 17.

The Hope orbiter will reach Mars in early 2021, to study the Red Planet’s atmosphere, weather and climate from above.

Last year, Hazza al-Mansouri, 36, spent eight days on the International Space Station.

When he returned to the UAE he became a national hero and since then the nation has been space mad.

media_cameraA man takes a picture of an illustration depicting an astronaut with the Emirati national flag outside Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) in Dubai, UAE. Picture: Karim Sahib/AFP

China will follow with a long-awaited launch of its own just over a week after Hope is scheduled to launch.

Tianwen-1 is primed to lift off being carried on a Long March 5 rocket.

It will conduct a broad reconnaissance* of the Martian environment.

It is equipped with a high-resolution camera and a mineral spectrometer* to allow mission members to study what the surface rocks are made of.

Its rover also carries a weather station, a magnetic field detector and a ground-penetrating radar.

If Tianwen-1 is successful, China will become just the third nation, after Russia and the US, to land on Mars.

media_cameraNASA’s Mars rover Perseverance. Picture: AFP/NASA

Last to take off will be the US’s Perseverance mission.

It is scheduled to lift off aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on July 30.

If all goes to plan it will land inside Mars’ Jezero crater mid-February 2021.

Its mission is to search for signs of ancient life in the rocks of the 45km-wide crater.

Mars is the focus of the missions as there is evidence of water in the past, suggesting it could have once sustained life.

This story was first published on The Sun and is republished with permission.

media_cameraNASA engineers and technicians examine the descent stage of the Mars 2020 spacecraft at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, US. Picture: AFP

GLOSSARY

  • interplanetary: between planets
  • rival: other competitor in a race
  • probes: an instrument for exploring or looking around
  • reconnaissance: go out early or first to look around a new pace
  • spectrometer: science equipment used for measuring the range of something, such as minerals in rock

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QUICK QUIZ

  1. Why are all the missions leaving now?
  2. What is the main difference between the UAE’s Hope mission to the other two?
  3. What countries have already landed on Mars?
  4. Which country is expected to be the third country to land on Mars?
  5. When is the US mission expected to land on Mars?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Mars Invasion
Create your own editorial cartoon about the possible ‘traffic jam’ of spacecraft on Mars at the same time. An editorial cartoon is an illustration containing a commentary that usually relates to current events or personalities. You can look at recent cartoons by Mark Knight featured on Kids News by typing “Mark Knight” into the search bar on the Kids News homepage.
Your cartoon should be funny and attempt to find the humour of having three spacecraft on a deserted planet at the same time. Most editorial cartoons have speech bubbles to contain the text and help convey your message.

Share your cartoon with your classmates.

Time: allow 25 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Visual Arts, Critical and creative thinking

2. Extension
If all three of these Mars missions were successful, what information could they have possibly discovered about Mars?

Time: allow 10 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science

VCOP ACTIVITY
Proper Noun Police
A proper noun is a noun that names a particular person, place or thing. It always has a capital letter.

How many proper nouns can you find within this article? Find them all and sort them into the category of name, place, time (date/month).

Can you find any proper nouns included in your writing?

What are they?

Can you sort them into their categories?

HAVE YOUR SAY: Do you believe there has ever been life on Mars? Do you believe there could be in the future?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

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