Observation Mission to Mars

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Mars, also known as the Red Planet, is the fourth planet from the Sun, orbiting at a distance of around 227,936,640 km from the Sun at any given time. Mars orbits the sun in 687 days. The earth is nearest to the sun at perihelion (about 206,600,000 km) and farthest away at aphelion (about 249,200,000 km) (Tanton, Asphaug, & Bell, 2014). Mars is surrounded by two stars, Phobos and Deimos. It is the position from the sun that gives it the Red appearance. Romans believed the planet to be the symbol of their god of war and name it “mars” however; the name has its origins in ancient Greece. Similarly, other nations named the planet based on its appearance and color since the discovery exploration of Mars has remained the critical prerogative and long-term effort of different exploration missions.

Robotic exploration of the planet to explore the different science goals set including whether Mars or the Red world is habitat is the reasons behind landing a manned mission to the surface of Mars (Rayman, Fraschetti, & Raymond, 2006). The return manned mission is not only targeted at looking for signs of life on the planet but also to look in the signs of past microbial life on this planet. The mission has the mission of collecting as many specimens as possible and if possible return with the specimens back to Earth for further investigations (NASA, New Horizons: The first mission to Pluto and the Kuiper belt: Exploring Frontier Worlds, 2006). The samples will be helpful in conducting investigations about the geology, presence of minerals and possibility of human habitation in the planet. The planned mission could return with the samples back to Earth, and this can enable scientists to conduct more detailed investigations about the planets. The mission provides an opportunity for exploring and gathering special knowledge and also demonstrates the appropriate technological and technical improvements that can mitigate the challenges of future expeditions.

The mission to Mars addresses important scientific concerns about the evolution and the origin of the solar system. The science behind this exploration mission is to understand the current and future potential of human habitation in Mars (Lechar, 2013). For long, humans have had speculations about the growth of the planets. Also, it is speculated that Jupiter gravity has a lot of influence in planet Mars and is responsible for the creation of the belt of the proto-planets observed today. There is a lot to learn about the planetary collisions that occurred about 4.5 million years ago and what some planets supported immediate life and why others remain lifeless (Head, 2010). The mission is inspired by the near-life activities that have been reported by previous missions and the capability of establishing a sustainable human presence on Mars. Unlike the earlier missions to Mars, this one is a calculated mission because of the extraterrestrial rover missions to the planet.

Environment, geology, and landscape

Mars is a unique planet because of the qualities it possesses regarding the atmosphere environment, geology and landscape. Rover mission reports indicate that Mars is about half size as Earth and it is a cold and dry planet with a desert-like landscape comprising of sand and rocks. The Planet has numerous land features like volcanoes and valleys, and it looks very similar to Earth (NASA, 2015). The temperatures in the planet range between -89oC to about -63oC that is the highest temperature recorded. The planet is different from the terrestrial planets given the low temperatures, size, and atmosphere. However, when it comes to geology and landscape, the planet has significant similarities to Earth because of the massive volcanoes, canyons, and channels on Mars. The surface of Mars is covered with many impact craters, and it has been speculated that scientists can deduce the age of the planet using the distribution of such craters (NASA, Journey To Mars: Pioneering next steps in space exploration., 2017). Considering the similarities between the two planets, it is likely that studying the geological and landscape similarities scientists can learn about the ability of the planet to support life (Wall, 2013). Since no field stations are set up on this planet then sending missions to the planet can provide additional evidence to learn more about the Martian planet.

The Martian landscape boasts of some of the largest and widest physical features. One striking feature similar to that one of Earth is the Olympus Mons that is the tallest volcano reaching about 23 km tall. Similar to this volcano but half its size is the Mauna Loa peak on Hawaii which rises 10 km from the Pacific floor (NASA, Mars Polar Lander: Water and life, 2015). The interesting discoveries made are the presence of molten material on the surface of the mountains which points out to the similar origin of the two planets. Evidence has also pointed that Mars had a global magnetic field just like the Earths Magnetic field. However, the magnetic field in the planet reversed or faded because of the changes in core conditions. The striking feature about the planets is the evidence of the presence of water warehouses in the two planets. The Martian ice caps vary, but it is evident that the planet had a northern and southern ice cap which makes it similar to the Earth’s Polar ice (Tanton, Asphaug, & Bell, 2014). The presence of fresh water is the vital component in supporting life forms, and it is this factor that emphasizes the need for the mission. The striking similarities between Mars and Earth position it as a hospitable planet that can support life compared to other planets. The objective of the observation mission is to explore the surface of Mars and research more on the methane atmosphere and how it developed. The exploration mission will take a keen interest in the soil type and water towards and if the water towers still exist.

Chapter II: Review of literature

Galileo Galilei was the first scientist to view Mars through his telescope. Since the 19th-century researchers have embarked on the process of discovering more about the planet. NASA started its robot spacecraft in the 1960s with the launch of Mariner 4 in 1964. Later Mariners 6 and eight were launched in 1969 (Tanton, Asphaug, & Bell, 2014). Early exploration missions portrayed the planet as a barren with no indication of life and civilization. Records indicate that the Soviet Union followed suit and launched different missions, but many of the Russian missions failed. However, only two missions the Mars 2 launched in 1971 and Mars 3 launched in 1971 that operated successfully, however, nothing tangible came from the two missions. The two Russians missions were unable to maps the surface due to the numerous sand storm (NASA, Journey To Mars: Pioneering next steps in space exploration., 2017). In 1971, the Mariner 9 rover mission orbited Mars and mapped about 80 percent of the planet. The Mariner 9 discovered majority of geological and landscape features.

According to NASA, the Viking 1 was the first Rover to touch down on the surface of Mars in 1976. The Viking 1 is considered the primary successful landing mission that inspired the later landing missions (NASA, Journey To Mars: Pioneering next steps in space exploration., 2017). During the mission, NASA was able to take close up pictures which showed the details about the composition of the soil, rocks and other land surface features. However, the Viking 1 mission found no evidence of life on the planet (Lechar, 2013). Later successes, were realized through the mission Mars Pathfinder a Lander and Mars Global Surveyor which was an orbiter was able to launch a small rover robot (Sojourner) that wheeled through the planet’s surface to analyze the rocks (Tanton, Asphaug, & Bell, 2014).

It was in 2001 that the United States launched the Mars Odyssey which explored and probed the Martian surface and discovered water warehouses underneath the Martian surface (Wall, 2013). It was uncertain if the water existed beneath the surface or it was 1 meter below since the probe was not extensive to reach deeper substratum. As shown by NASA reports, in 2003 Mars passed closer to the Earth a phenomenon that occurred after about 60,000 years (NASA, Mars Polar Lander: Water and life, 2015). In that year NASA launched Spirit and Opportunity to explore the different regions and surface of Mars. The rovers gathered evidence that surface water sources existed on the planet’s surface.

Different missions have been launched with the objectives of finding water on the surface of Mars this includes the Phoenix mission. In its 2011NASA created the Mars science laboratory, a mission that launched the rover Mars Curiosity with the objective of investigating and determining the geological features and process of the planet (NASA, Journey To Mars: Pioneering next steps in space exploration., 2017). Mars Curiosity is currently exploring Mount Sharp to understand the deposition layers and composition of the layers. Now, NASA has the orbiters Mars Reconnaissance and Mars Atmosphere and Volatile evolution that are gathering information about the atmospheric and landscape of the planet. Other countries are involved in the exploration missions, for example, India launched the Mars Orbiter Mission, and Europe has the Mars express and Trace Gas Orbiter. Despite the success, there are some failed missions like NASA’s Mars Observer in 1992, Russia’s Mars 96, Yinghuo -1 orbiter and Japan’s Nozomi (Tanton, Asphaug, & Bell, 2014). However, all the successful missions are concerned with discovering old signs of life and the objective of the proposed mission.

Chapter III: Methodology

The objective of the proposal is to send a manned return mission to explore the surface of Mars. The aim is to research more on the Methane atmosphere in Mars as well s evaluate the soil composition. The information gathered by the mission would be handy in understanding if the planet had surface water flows mainly oceans, rivers, and streams (Rayman, Fraschetti, & Raymond, 2006). The exploration mission will be a return mission meaning that the subjects have to return to achieving the objective. The methods for technological improvement include physical testing method on the best way to test and evaluate the Martian atmosphere that has been a challenge. Observing and identifying the resources such as water and signs of life. The other approaches include characterizing the weather and likening it to the other environmental conditions and the potential of improving or influencing the weather conditions on the planet. For analysis, the mission proposes the use of the Gamma Ray Neutron spectrometer that integrates different sensors that probe geological signals (Wall, 2013). The Gamma-ray spectrometer is used with a photomultiplier tube designed to measure the scintillation as a result of the interaction between emitted gamma rays and surface crystals. The spectrometer has a full field of view compared to the conventional optical telescope. Regarding spacecraft, more engineering approaches targeted at improving the landing techniques and reducing travel time are of concern.

The observation mission is timed shortly, according to NASA records Mars will be nearest to Earth in 2020. In 2020 the distance between Mars and Earth are in good lineation to facilitate landing (Head, 2010). The objective is to reduce the travel time because the changes in extraterrestrial changes in positions of planets in orbit affect the exploration missions. The primary aim is to keep the mission expenses and costs relatively low and mitigate the risks associated with such explorative missions. Plenty of planning goes into the process of initiating the real mission (NASA, Mars Polar Lander: Water and life, 2015). The mission will require planning for the Spacecraft that can endure the long distance and varied conditions to and from Mass. Spacecraft design is essential and will ensure the success of the manned return observation mission to Mars. The Proposed spaceship is code-named “Sparta – Reconnaissance 2 (SP-R 2)” and it borrows a lot regarding design and function from its successful predecessors.

The launch period will be in January 2020 and the SP-R 2 launched from a Lockheed Martin V 552 launch vehicle. The core of the Atlas is a booster with five solid rocket boosters, and a centaur in the upper stage and a Boeing build Star -448 B solid propellant rocket. The launch vehicle designed to be 59.7 meters and weight of 575,000 kilograms (Head, 2010). The spacecraft dimensions regarding size and weight will be wide enough to accommodate the four astronauts and the supplies. The spaceship separation approach will vary depending on the consumption of the rocket fuel. The projected travel time to mass is expected to take about 6-12 months to cover the distance (Lechar, 2013). The closest approach distance is 227 million kilometers, and the mission is to ensure that the approach is at 14 kilometers per second. The earliest possible arrival in Mars is July 2020, and the surveillance will take two months to complete. The approximated cost of completing the spacecraft is approximately $1.2 - $2 trillion. The cost will cover spacecraft instrument, launch vehicles, operations, communication equipment, data analysis equipment and other personal requirements and supplies.

The four astronauts will fly to and from mass using the currently existing technology and reach the planet in 6 months. Once they land on Mars, the astronauts would try to generate oxygen from the methane-filled atmosphere. The objective of the research is to get information about the possible presence of water and other minerals from the soil. Over time, the trip can be sustainable if the astronauts manage to generate oxygen from the atmosphere. The agency spaceflight program main long-term goal is to work towards getting crewed mission to mass and back.


Head, J. W. (2010). The Geoogy of Mars: new insights and outstanding questions. Space exploration .

Lechar, C. (2013). 12 insanely ambitious ideas for improving spece exploration. popular science .

NASA. (2017, Jan 23). Journey To Mars: Pionering next steps in space exploration. Retrieved November 30, 2017, from National Space Agency: https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/atoms/files/journey-to-mars-next-steps-20151008_508.pdf

NASA. (2015, Jan 15). Mars Polar Lander: Water and life. Retrieved Nove 30, 2017, from National Space Agency: https://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msp98/why.html

NASA. (2006, Janurary 12). New Horizons: The first mission to Pluto and the kuiper belt: Exploring Frontier Worlds. Retrieved Nov 30, 2017, from National Space Agency: https://www.nasa.gov/pdf/139889main_PressKit12_05.pdf

Rayman, M., Fraschetti, T., & Raymond, C. (2006). Dawn: A mission development for exploration of main Belt Asteroids. Acta Astronica , 605-616.

Tanton, E., Asphaug, A., & Bell, J. (2014). Hourney to a metal worl: Concepet for a discovery mission to pyche. 45th Lunard and panetary science conference .

Wall, M. (2013). Red Planet or bust: % crewed Mars Mission ideas. Space .

January 05, 2023




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