I say the chances against it are a thousand to one. If mars does have life, it will be a life very different from the sort we have here, as improbable as it may seem. Science may soon have an answer this month, spacecrafts from nasa and china will arrive at the red planet at one of the most pivotal moments of space exploration. This is the first time that a nasa mission will be explicitly looking for life on mars since the 1970s viking missions, which were also the first successful u.s landings on mars, it’s, just so profoundly exciting to me and and to others on our team to be able To be directly looking for life on another planet, it’s just a sort of once in a lifetime opportunity. This is an enormous matter of prestigious. I strongly suspect that senior members of china’s political leadership will be literally in the room watching as the craft de orbits and lands. China is tian, won, won, entered marja’s orbit on february 10th and is now circling the planet with an orbiter from the united arab emirates, which had arrived a day earlier, chiang 1 isn’t expected to land on mars until may, while the uae’s mission won’t land at all. So now all eyes are on the american mission mars 2020 and its nuclear powered rover perseverance, four engine ignition two. After a months long journey through deep space, the probe is expected to touch down on mars jezreel crater on february 18th.

Ken williford is a nasa astrobiologist. Who’S been working on the mission since mars is hard. You know landing on mars, especially is hard. It’S been called the seven minutes of terror. Nasa’S first successful landing was in 1976 with the viking one and two missions. Their search to find evidence of life was unsuccessful and so for a generation. Afterwards, nasa’s missions to the red planet focused on other scientific questions, but with the six wheeled perseverance rover, which is about the size and weight of an suv. Nasa is once again on an interplanetary safari to search for ancient life Music. We use our rover as a robotic geologist, almost like a human. Would we look around with our eyes. First of all, we use our cameras there’s an instrument called super cam, which is sort of like a big cyclops. Looking eye up on the remote sensing mast on top of the rover, which is actually a telescope with a laser in the middle of it, once the telescope has located an area of rock, to examine more lasers, shoot out from two very important instruments to scan the Rocks for biosignatures of ancient life, one is called pixel. One is called sherlock, both of them use a beam, and the beam itself is about the diameter of your hair. This beam scans, an area about the size of a postage stamp to create a map of the rock’s chemical composition. Pieces of the rock can also be extracted, which will be stored for an ambitious sample return mission being developed by nasa with the european space agency.

That mission is slated for an early 2030s launch, so why is examining and collecting these rocks so important for the vast majority of the history of earth? All life was microscopic and microbial think about pond scum at the edge of a lake or a pond on earth. This green gooey stuff and when you mix that gooey pond scum with the sediment on the edge of a lake or a pond uh, it can form a rock formation that we call a stromatolite. Scientists believe that these wrinkly rock formations, if found on mars, could be evidence of ancient microbial life formed on mars, had seasoned rivers flowing water some four billion years ago. Also, writing with perseverance, will be two audio recorders that will allow us to hear what mars sounds like and an oxygen extracting generator called moxie. The success of moxie will be essential for supporting human exploration of mars in the future, but the most eye catching of perseverance’s new tech is ingenuity. This robotic four pound helicopter will be the first aircraft to attempt controlled flight on another planet. In may, perseverance is expected to be joined on the martian surface by the chinese spacecraft, tianuan won or questions to heaven. K11 is expected to come down in the area known as utopia. Dean chang is a senior fellow at the heritage foundation whose research focuses on china and space policy. It is enormously daring because this is china’s first interplanetary probe and they’re going to deploy a rover.

If successful, this would make china the only nation other than the us to deploy a rover on the martian surface. Chinese officials have been tight lipped about many details of the mission. The chinese don’t explicitly say that tien won one’s main mission is to search for ancient life like it is for perseverance, but this is a far more complicated moment for china, so managing expectations for its very first martian landing might be a more important objective for china. This is partly science um. The chinese have said that great powers contribute to the wealth of human knowledge, but it is also prestige um, because this is being accomplished under xi. Jinping, it is being accomplished under the chinese common party. It is a statement of china’s ability to rival other major powers, but china has prepared itself for this moment with a string of successes in a short amount of time. In 2003, it became the third nation to launch an astronaut into orbit. In 2019, china deployed a lunar rover on the far side of the moon, the first and only country to do so and successfully collected and returned samples to earth. China said it plans to launch a space station in 2022. The chinese are are have one of the most opaque space programs out there. They are very close mouthed on basic data, such as, for example, the overall size of china’s space budget Music. So, at least for now the us mars, 2020 mission might be in the best position to find the answers.

We’Ve all been waiting for mars, 2020 and mars. Sample return are primarily motivated by this really fundamental uh science question are we alone in the universe? I think it’s very clear that mars could have supported life in its distant past, but this is the big question.

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