Whereas the idea of sending humans to Mars was once relegated to science fiction, NASA hopes to become a reality by the late 2000s.
But one of the main questions we need to solve before blasting off to the Red Planet, is where to land.
Now, scientists from the European Space Agency (ESA) have created the first water map of Mars, based on data from NASA’s Mars Express and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
The team hopes the map will change the way we think about Mars’ watery past and help determine where to land on the Red Planet in the future.
Scientists from the European Space Agency (ESA) have created the first water map of Mars, based on data from NASA’s Mars Express and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
Mars: the basics
Mars is the fourth planet from the sun, with a cold, dusty desert world that is almost dead with a very thin atmosphere.
Mars is also a dynamic planet with seasons, polar ice caps, canyons, and extinct volcanoes, evidence that it was more active in the past.
It is one of the most explored planets in the solar system, and the only planet that humans have sent their rovers to explore.
One day on Mars takes just over 24 hours and a year is 687 Earth days.
facts and figures
orbital: 687 days
surface area: 144.8 million square kilometers
distance from the sun: 227.9 million km
gravity: 3.721 m/s²
radius: 3389.5 km
moons: Phobos, Deimos
The map shows the locations and abundance of hydrated minerals on Mars.
These minerals are from rocks that have been chemically altered by water in the past and are usually converted into clays and salts.
While you might think these water minerals would be few and far between, the biggest surprise is their prevalence on Mars, where the map revealed hundreds of thousands of these areas.
“This work has now demonstrated that when you study ancient topography in detail, not seeing these minerals is actually quite odd,” said Dr. John Carter of the Astrophysical Institute Spatale.
The big question now is whether this water is continuous, or confined to shorter, more intense bouts.
The European Space Agency hopes that the map will serve as a better tool to answer this question.
“I think we’ve collectively simplified Mars,” Dr. Carter said.
Scientists were previously inclined to believe that only a few types of clay minerals were formed on Mars during the Martian wet period.
Then, as the water gradually dried up, salts were produced across the planet.
However, the new map shows that the process was likely much more complicated than that.
While many of the salts may have formed later than the clays, the map shows that there are exceptions.
Data from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer (CRISM) showed that Jezero crater displays a rich variety of hydrated minerals.
The European Space Agency’s Mars Express Observatoire pour la Mineralogie, l’Eau, les Glaces et l’Activité (OMEGA) instrument is more suitable for mapping with higher spectral resolution and provides global coverage of Mars
Lunar soil can be used to convert carbon dioxide into rocket fuel to power missions to Mars
A new study has found that lunar soil could potentially be converted into rocket fuel to power future missions to Mars.
Analysis of dirt grains brought back by China’s Chang’e 5 spacecraft found that the regolith on the moon contains compounds that convert carbon dioxide into oxygen.
The soil is rich in iron and titanium, which act as catalysts under sunlight and can convert carbon dioxide and water released by astronauts’ bodies into oxygen, hydrogen and other useful by-products like methane to power a lunar base.
As liquefied oxygen and hydrogen make rocket fuel, it also opens the door for an interplanetary fuel station to cut costs on the Moon for trips to the Red Planet and beyond.
“The evolution from lots of water to no water isn’t as straightforward as we thought, the water didn’t stop overnight,” Dr. Carter explained.
We see so much diversity in geological contexts that no simple process or timeline can explain the development of mineralogy on Mars.
This is the first result of our study. The second is that if you exclude the processes of life on Earth, Mars exhibits a variety of minerals in geological environments just as Earth does.
To create the map, the European Space Agency used data from various instruments.
For example, data from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer (CRISM) has shown that Jezero crater displays a rich variety of hydrated minerals.
Meanwhile, the European Space Agency’s Mars Express Observatoire pour la Mineralogie, l’Eau, les Glaces et l’Activité (OMEGA) instrument is more suitable for mapping with higher spectral resolution and provides global coverage of Mars.
The researchers hope that the map will be useful to NASA as it chooses where to land on Mars in the future.
This news comes ahead of NASA’s Artemis I mission, which is scheduled to launch on August 29, paving the way for future missions to the Moon and Mars.
“Artemis I will be an unmanned flight test that provides a foundation for human exploration of deep space, and demonstrates our commitment and ability to extend human presence to the Moon and beyond,” NASA explained.
If the Artemis missions are successful, NASA aims to launch astronauts to Mars by the late 1930s or early 1940s.
NASA plans to send a manned mission to Mars in the 2030s after the first landing on the moon
Mars has become the next giant leap for mankind’s exploration of space.
But before humans reach the Red Planet, the astronauts will take a series of small steps back to the Moon for a year-long mission.
Important details in lunar orbit were revealed as part of the timeline of events that led to missions to Mars in the 1930s.
NASA outlined its four-stage plan (pictured) that it hopes will one day allow humans to visit Mars at the Humans to Mars Summit held in Washington, DC yesterday. This will entail multiple missions to the Moon over the coming decades
In May 2017, Greg Williams, NASA’s deputy assistant director for policy and planning, outlined the space agency’s four-stage plan that it hopes will one day allow humans to visit Mars, as well as the projected timeframe for it.
The first and second stage It will include multiple flights into lunar space, to allow for the construction of a habitat that will provide a staging area for the flight.
The last piece of hardware delivered will be the actual Deep Space Transport rover that will later be used to transport a crew to Mars.
A simulation of life on Mars will be conducted for a year in 2027.
The third and fourth phases will begin after 2030 and will include continuous crewed exploration flights to the Mars system and the Martian surface.
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