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Goals, Achievements And Findings Of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program

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Summary

Nasa has run into a few challenges and setbacks since its founding on 29 july 1958. But it has never stopped surpassing it’s limits to go above and beyond. Nasa is the leading science in space exploration and it has been for a while now. This essay is about the some of the goals, achievements and findings of Nasa’s Mars Exploration Program. It also talks about the effect this program has had on society and in the aerospace industry as a whole.

Introduction

T​here have been countless scientific advancements in the aerospace industry during the past century. From the invention of airplanes in 1903 by the Wright brothers, to the reflight of an orbital class rocket in 2017. In this essay, I am going to focus on the achievement I believe is the most prominent amongst the list; the Mars Exploration Program. It’s common knowledge, humans are innately curious beings. The NASA Mars Exploration expedition was just another way we as a species chose to satisfy that curiosity. The program was a space probe mission that concerned two mobile vehicles, the Spirit and Opportunity rovers. Both rovers landed on Mars in january 2004; with the opportunity landing on the opposite side of the planet inside the Eagle crater. Before I go into further detail, I think it is important for me to state the purpose of this program and why exploring Mars is so important.

Goals

1. The first thing on the agenda was to find out if Mars had, or will ever have the environmental conditions necessary to support life. This goal had two parts to it:

  • Ascertain if life ever arose from places with high potential for prior habitability.
  • Ascertain if life will ever arise from places with high potential for present life.

Water plays a vital role in the thriving of a species; life can not exist without water. In other words, to achieve this goal, the rovers needed to find out if Mars was once a wet planet. The history of water on Mars needs to be known.

2. Manned missions to Mars is something scientists have been thinking about for a while now but in order to do that we first need to understand the Martian environment. Characterizing the geology of the planet brings us one step closer to making that a reality. This goal observes the structure, composition, as well as the history of Mars as a planet through a deep understanding of its interior.

3. Understanding the history of climate on Mars is another thing scientists wished to achieve in this programme. This involves grasping how the climate on Mars has changed over time, the processes that brought about this change and finding out if the Martian atmosphere has some features that are common with other planetary atmospheres.

4. Humans will eventually travel to Mars. Which is why we need a thorough understanding of the Martian environment. So in order to reduce the risk of human exploration, the twin rovers were sent as scouts to help find potential resources and danger.

Evidence of water

The Opportunity found rounded pebbles while analysing the first rocks and soil they came across. Most of the time they were attached to individual rock layers; other times there were scattered across the surface. After weeks of analysing, Opportunity found that these pebbles mostly consisted of the hematite. Hematite is a mineral that mostly forms in the presence of water. Meaning there is a high probability that there was once water in that region. Later on, the opportunity discovered jarosite; a mineral that forms in the presence of acidic water. This gives us an idea of how the Martian environment looked in the past.

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Scientists took photos of a region called Gusev crater using satellites because it looked like water once flowed there. So they picked that as a good landing spot for the Spirit rover. The Spirit took many pictures around the crater, making it the first rover to take coloured pictures on another planet. In some of those pictures is a mineral (silica) the rover discovered when dragging one of it wheels on the soil near the crater after it got damaged during a sandstorm. Silica is a light coloured mineral that is found mostly in hot springs. All this proves that there was once liquid water on the surface of Mars.

Climate of Mars

Climate change on Mars always occurs on a large area. Scientists believe that Mars once had water on its surface. But today, all that water is nowhere to be found. This is mostly due to the change of conditions on the planet. The atmosphere on Mars as thinned over the years making it difficult for the planet to support life. Dust storms mostly occur during southern spring and summer. These storms sometimes take place all over the planet. A better understanding of the climate is needed to know how these dust storms expand. Mars is about 78.3 million km further away from the sun than earth, which contributes to the reasons why Mars is such a cold planet. Carbon dioxide makes up 95.3 percent of the atmosphere while the remaining 4.7 percent is made up of gasses like nitrogen, oxygen, argon and so on.

Geology

Mars is a planet that is made up of different types of rocks which can be used to find out Nmore about the Martian history. The composition of the rock tells us more about what happened in the past. From the composition of the rocks we can tell if Mars was once a watery planet. Mars has a lot of volcanoes some of which are up to 100 times bigger than those on earth. Mars once had a magnetic field as strong as Earths, but not anymore. Mars has a magnetosphere that is rather similar to Earths. Magnetospheres help shield planets from radiation but since the one on Mars is so weak, a lot of radiation still gets through.

NASA’S Viking Mission

​NASA have had their sights on Mars for quite a while now. Numerous landing missions were assigned with that in mind; most of which ended in failures. That is, until the viking landers touched down in 1976. The Viking mission consisted of two space crafts, the Viking 1 and Viking 2; each having a lander and an orbiter pair. The orbiters were primarily used to transport the landers to Mars. They were also used to image the entire Martian surface at a resolution of 150 to 300 metres; making it easier to confirm landing sites. The orbiters always maintained an altitude of 300km or more away from the surface of Mars so it could properly do reconnaissance. Thousands of pictures were taken by the orbiters for research purposes; the landers were chosen based on those images. They were also used as a means for communicating with the scientists on earth.

After landing, only the seismometer on the viking 2 was still functional. Though it only picked up one event which may have been seismic. It also calculated the wind speed at the landing site which added for information to the meteorology experiment; proving that earthquakes do not happen frequently on Mars. The science experiments done on the soil near the landing site did not provide any clear evidence of living organisms. Biologists believe the ultraviolet radiation from the sun prevents any living organisms from forming in the soil. At first, the objective was to find extant life; this came to an end when the Viking landers couldn’t find sufficient evidence to prove present life. But that was not all on the mission objective. The weather was being monitored everyday by the landers. In the Martian midsummer the weather was monotonous but that changed during other seasons.

Benefits of exploration

Exploration has a lot of benefits to the society; it can either affect society directly or indirectly. In order for Nasa’s Mars Exploration Programme to be successful a lot of development and innovation in technologies had to be made. Technology had to be improved to overcome the challenges in space. Satellite technology has increased an awful lot; it is now an $85 billion industry that improves our standard of living. A human Mars mission would have a direct increase in the development of the technological industries listed below

With the increase and development of technological industries, also comes new jobs and job categories Nasa Exploration Programme indirectly Influences the prestige america as a country exerts within the global community.

Conclusion

The Exploration of Mars is only going to increase in the future. More and more scientists join the aerospace industry in order to make that happen. I believe that there will be many more unmanned missions to Mars before we gather enough information for a manned mission.

References

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Goals, Achievements And Findings Of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program. (2022, February 18). Edubirdie. Retrieved October 2, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/goals-achievements-and-findings-of-nasas-mars-exploration-program/
“Goals, Achievements And Findings Of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program.” Edubirdie, 18 Feb. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/goals-achievements-and-findings-of-nasas-mars-exploration-program/
Goals, Achievements And Findings Of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/goals-achievements-and-findings-of-nasas-mars-exploration-program/> [Accessed 2 Oct. 2022].
Goals, Achievements And Findings Of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Feb 18 [cited 2022 Oct 2]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/goals-achievements-and-findings-of-nasas-mars-exploration-program/
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