A 21st Century Space Race? Probes from three different nations due to descend on Mars

Written on 02/08/2021
Ciarán Mather

Three separate space probes controlled by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the USA and China respectively are set to end their journeys to Mars soon, it has been revealed.

What's more, scientists already know the order in which the probes will arrive.

The UAE's 'Hope' orbiter will reach the Red Planet on Tuesday, followed less than 24 hours later by China's 'Tianwen-1' orbiter-rover combo. 

Lastly, NASA's rover, 'Perseverance', will arrive one week later, on February 18th.

The UAE and China probes' entries will mark the first time either nation has successfully reached Mars.

China's first Mars mission, a joint effort with Russia in 2011, never made it past Earth's orbit.

The Hope orbiter was launched in order to study Mars' weather and will attempt to create the first map of the planet's atmosphere. 

Meanwhile, Tianwen-1 will conduct global survey reconnaissance and will relay this data back to Earth. 

It is also fitted with a radar system that is able to penetrate up to 100 metres below the Martian surface.

The Perseverance rover will collect rocks for analysis back on Earth, as well as for any potential habitable conditions and micro-organisms, that could prove that our closest neighbour once hosted life of its own.

Astrobiologist Susanne Schwenzer of the Open University spoke to The Guardian about the possible implications of the NASA rover's findings: 'When we do that, we will hopefully get answers to the simple question: is there, or was there, life on Mars.'

'It is a crucial issue – for if life did evolve on Mars, independently of life on Earth, that means life evolved twice, separately, in the same solar system and is likely to be common in the cosmos.'

In other Mars-related news, a physicist working at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) recently unveiled a new concept for a rocket thruster involving the use of magnets.