3. Summer of Mars
Three missions from three nations — the U.S., China and the United Arab Emirates — head to Mars in the next month, writes Miriam Kramer, author of Axios Space.
- The UAE, a new player in planetary exploration, is expected to launch its first spacecraft to the Red Planet this evening.
Why it matters: More nations are going to space as the costs of launch and development drop.
The U.S. is the only nation to successfully land and operate rovers on the Martian surface, and expectations for NASA's new Perseverance mission are high.
- This rover is designed to collect interesting samples of rock and dirt, and will hunt for signs of past life from its landing site.
- It's part of setting the stage for eventual human missions to the Red Planet.
The China and UAE missions will be historic feats if they get to Mars at all.
- China's mission — which includes an orbiter, lander and a rover — would be the country's first solo journey to Mars.
- The UAE sees its Hope mission as a way to boost scientific know-how in the Middle East. UAE leaders want science to be "deeply integrated" into the nation's economy, Omran Sharaf, Hope's project lead, told Axios.
The intrigue: All three of the missions had to contend with virus issue in to get to the launch pad this summer.
- NASA persevered with Perseverance during the pandemic because the window to launch to Mars only comes around every two years.
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