History of Exploration of Mars
Mars, also known as the Red Planet, has faced intensive scientific examination. The Viking project launched by NASA in1968 focused on examining biological, physical, and related phenomena of the surface of Mars (NASA Special Publication 8). This space science program started with the desire to explore the possible life form on this planet.
The United States and the former Soviet Union sent many robotic visitors to Mars due to the aggressive push by science and the Cold War. The earliest successful voyages, by the American robotic Mariners 4, 6 and 7, were equipped with cameras and remote sensing devices to facilitate the success of the airspace mission. The photographs taken in this mission plotted a different planet (Mars) from what the scientists of 1950s expected. Mars had a heavily cratered, Moonlike surface with no apparent water or observable signs of life, but only thin atmosphere. This thin atmosphere consisted of carbon dioxide, with only small elements of nitrogen, argon, and water vapor.
A few planetary astronomers projected that the Mars surface would guarantee atmospheric composition that is equivalent to that of the Earth’s. Realizing that this was not true, astronomers were forced to accept that Earth’s atmosphere was a product of living processes and, in a larger view, that biotic processing had radically altered Earth (NASA Special Publication 41). But Mars appeared sterile, and far different from the physical appearances of the earth, despite being considered as life supporting planets in the solar systems.
Physical Science Description of Mars
The first planetary orbiter, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Mariner 9, completed a photographic reconnaissance of the entire surface of Mars in 1971. It arrived in the middle of a planetary –scale dust storm and was reprogrammed to wait out the storm (NASA’s Analog Mission 18). The resulting photographs revealed a terrain of enormous diversity. In addition to the cratering, Mar has volcanoes far larger than anything on Earth and a canyon system whose length is larger than North America. This planet is also lopsided, with its southern hemisphere having a much higher average elevation than the northern hemisphere (NASA’s Analog Mission 25). And if crater counts would depend on age-count between the two spheres of the earth, the southern hemisphere’s surface is much older than the northern..
Again, the photographs indicated that Mars has no clear water. However, it did have terrain features that looked a lot like water-carved features on Earth, river valley and the like. It had water vapor in its atmosphere, although not much. Water vapor molecules would disintegrate over time from ultraviolet radiation bombardment, to there had to be water or water ice somewhere within reach of the atmosphere to replenish even that small amount.
Recent Discoveries about Mars
Modern science discoveries have found percentages of hydrogen, oxygen, carbon and phosphorus as the primary ingredients in water. Throughout the planetary history, the cratered highlands of the Mars consist of aqueous deposits of the carbonate minerals. Small salt contents in the clay rocks suggest that the water could be fresh, hence drinkable. Evidence of the subsurface water during Hesperian eras still supports the standing bodies of water on the surface of the Mars. The Recurring Slope Lineae (RSL) is often associated with the possible flow of the water. Imaging spectrometers recently carried by the NASA revealed that water flows intermittently on Mars.
After analyzing most of the organic molecules, NASA Curiosity reveals that raw ingredients of life exist on Mars. Meteorites reaching to the surface of the earth in the form of red materials supports evidence to the occurrence of life on the surface of Mars. The availability of the ancient organic matters recognizes that human beings can survive and undertake various activities in a similar manner as on the Earth’s surface. The blue sunset could support the growth of the plants and the generation of the solar energy (NASA’s Journey to Mars 24).
The methane traces detected by the Astronauts in spacecraft suggest that Mar is still alive for human survival. Geological processes such as the volcanicity ensure that the methane is continuously in the northern hemisphere of Mars, hence neutralizing the hydrocarbons that could hamper support of different life forms.
The Future Space Operations
Space exploration has been the center for the geopolitical rivalries between super power nations. USA, for instance, has deployed intensive scientific space research to ensure that the future survival of humanity is guaranteed. Strategic advantages that have accompanied this exploration are the launch of the International Space Station (ISS) program (NASA’s Journey to Mars 33). Another advantage of such program focuses on the flight of the renewable hardware such as the Space Shuttle program (NASA Special Publication 102).
The completion of the ISS remains an influx in the US. The revision of the Constellation by the Obama’s government entails the development of the space operations beyond Low Earth Orbit (LEO), a mission that is projected to operate beyond 2020. Former Soviet Unions have revived their operations on the space explorations, hence extending the competition to the United States. The Russian Administration, for instance, have invested billions in the space projects.
With the support from the Germany, Russia has taken rapid space explorations using V-2 Rockets with successful results. Since the earliest days of the exploration on the moon surface, Rockets have emerged as reliable experimentation devices capable of travelling to the outer space within a short duration (NASA Special Publication 123). There are possibilities that Russians will develop aerospace planes with bear performance similar to the rockets or else develop reusable vehicles for the same purpose. For instance, X34 is a reusable vehicle with the capability of launching 905 kilograms to space and reduce the cost of landing to the moon’s surface.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration Report. NASA’s Analog Mission: Paving the Way for Space Explorations.
NASA’s Journey to Mars: Pioneering Next Steps in Space Explorations.
NASA Special Publication 6107. Human Exploration of Mars: The Reference Mission of the NASA Mars Exploration Study Team.