Was 2020 : the breakaway martian

Été 2020 : l'échappée martienne

Été 2020 : l'échappée martienne

Sunset on Mars, captured by the robot explorer Spirit in 2005.


July 10, 2020 10h27


Was 2020 : the breakaway martian

Juliette Collen

Agence France-Presse

PARIS — This summer, the Terrans have a new great appointment with March: three exploration missions will fly to the red planet, the final frontier for humanity, which nurtures hope, more and more credible, to detect signs of a past life, and, in the future, to put the foot.

The cycle of the celestial mechanics only offers a window of firing every 26 months, the distance between Mars and Earth being in this shorter period than usual, which makes the trip easier (55 million kilometres, or approximately six months of travel all the same).

Three countries are in the starting blocks. The united arab Emirates, will open the fest on the July 15, by sending the first probe Arabic interplanetary history, Al-Amal (“Hope”), to study the planet’s atmosphere. Will China, which will also his baptism martian with Tianwen (“Questions to heaven”), sending a probe, and a small remote-controlled robot, between 20 and 25 July. The most ambitious, american-style March 2020, will start on the 30th of July, to make land a vehicle designed to explore its surface, the rover Perseverance, signing the beginning of a program pharaonic still never made the taking of samples, in view of their return to Earth. A key step in the quest for the living. A fourth breakaway Russian-european was scheduled, ExoMars and his robot drilling, but had to be postponed to 2022 because of the pandemic of sars coronavirus.

This rush to the red planet is not unique : true nugget scientific, our closest neighbor has hosted since the 1960s several dozens of automatic probes, the united states, for the most part, in orbit or on the ground, many of which have failed. But since the 2000’s and the discovery of evidence that liquid water had flowed on the surface, the attraction goes crescendo, and March became the priority of exploring space.

“It is the only planet where one has the chance to detect a form of past life, and the more we accumulate knowledge, the more the place is promising. One feels that something exciting is approaching, and that it should be !”, explains to the AFP Michel Viso, exobiologiste at CNES, the French space agency, which has designed one of the main instruments of the rover Perseverance of the NASA.

Traces of a life trapped

The United States, Europe, India, China, the Uae, and in 2024 in Japan who will send a probe to explore Phobos, one of Mars’s moons… as with the Moon, each one tries to score points in this quest to assert itself as a scientific power and space. With a dream in mind, more distant: the one of “to contribute to the adventure of human exploration on Mars, which represents the ultimate frontier where man can go, in 20, 30 or 40 years,” said Michel Viso.

The goal of a manned flight to Mars is for the time seriously considered that the United States, the only ones to have initiated detailed studies on the feasibility of such an adventure. But to which other nations could join. The Emirates intend, for example, the construction of a “City of science”, replicating the environmental conditions of Mars in view of the establishment of a colony of human here… 2117.

The planet is now a huge frozen desert, which has slowly lost its dense atmosphere after a massive climate change, there are about 3.5 billion years ago, and is no longer protected from cosmic radiation. In short, nothing that would make living in the state, or that would turn it into a “Land bis”. But the question is first whether it was inhabited in the past, when the conditions for a life metabolic (microbes for example) were met.

“There are four billion years, the conditions on the surface were very close to what there was on Earth at the time life emerged”, with a thick atmosphere, liquid water, notes Jorge Vago, the scientist responsible of the ExoMars european space agency (ESA).

Then why is there life on Earth and, a priori, more on March – if there were ? It is to this question that attempt to meet the various robots that have criss-crossed the surface, as is currently used on the Rover of NASA. Perseverance will complement the quest of the famous robot, by asking themselves in an environment that is unexplored, the crater Jezero, rich in sedimentary rocks, and which houses a relief in the form of delta assigned to the mouth of an ancient river that emptied into a lake: the ideal place to be trapped traces of a past life — in which liquid water and carbon are the two presumptions.

Mars 2020 will collect a quarantine of relevant samples, of which thirty will return to Earth: this return will be the object of a mission is extremely complex in several stages, including a re-launch new. It should allow for the analysis of these fragments with exotic terrestrial instruments ultra-performance. But patience: not before ten years.

Le Soleil

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