One question that is being asked by people is, “Why go to Mars”? The
reasons are very simple. People want to gain recognition of how they were
the first people who went to Mars and opened up a whole new world and most
importantly to move forward in economics.
As humans waste the precious materials and resources found on this
planet we have to consider going to other planets to explore for materials
and energy resources. Mars would be the first area for industrial
development and mining in the “new world”.
There are talks that by the end of this century that a manned mission
to Mars should take place. We must start preparing ourselves properly in
order to explore Mars better. Scientists and researchers hopes when
exploring Mars is to find interesting minerals or matter that will help us
understand what Mars was like millions and millions of years ago.
The first manned mission to Mars will be more complex then that of the
first Moon landing which the main goal for going to the Moon was to just
land safely. The main thing that researchers and scientists are striving
for is exploratory, searching for useful raw materials such as water and at
the same time building up an extensive scientific picture of Mars-its state
at the present moment, its history and what the future developments are
going to be.
As astronauts journey to Mars and finally reach there the main concern
and top priority when landing will be the astronauts safety. There will be
more flexibility when choosing a landing site. The astronauts will decide
where they want to land but must take into consideration that the roving
vehicles would be able to provide extended range when travelling on the
surface of Mars. This most probably would ensure that the sites that are
in the scientists interest would easily be accessible.
Possible landing sites must be chosen under one goal, that would be
the overall understanding of the surface and not by a place that looks
attractive or has special features even if they seem alluring. The things
that have to be taken in account for possible landing sites are:
– guaranteeing that the explorers will touch down at the place which is
– choosing a place where possible interesting geological features may be found;
– choosing an area where rocks have recently been exposed;
– a certain area must be specified of where the roving vehicles may go.
Regions on Mars that have extensive dune fields and barely any
bedrock, the surface mobilities should be within a few kilometres to
guarantee that samples can be obtained without any difficulty. Landing
sites that have easy access to more than one type of interesting terrain
has an advantage but unfortunately these sites lean to be more on the rough
side and might pose to be a weighty hazard and obstacles might be in the
way of roving vehicles.
There are a possible of ten prime landing sites that might be chosen
when a manned mission to Mars has taken place. The Kasei and Mangala
valles are made up of striking features which seem to have channels that
are evidently engraved by flowing water from the past. Extensive studies
would provide significant clues to why Mars lost reserves of water. These
locations would offer and give explorers a big advantage as this area is
close to the large volcanoes and volcanic plains that are near the equator,
which will have affected their geology a tremendous deal.
There are other riveting sites other than these, but they are
difficult to reach for a manned mission to Mars. The Polar region sites
are precluded for manned missions because fuel would be expensive to change
form an initial parking orbit to a tilted orbit in order to make it
possible to land there. With non-polar sites, it would be difficult to
land on a gigantic volcanoes or canyons. The problems with visiting the
southern hemisphere regions is that it is less attractive then the northern
hemisphere and the terrain is much more rougher. These areas are also the
origin of dust storms and if a spacecraft were to land there it would be
foolish. Although these regions are not going to be explored by explorers,
at a later time or date they will be visited by long-range vehicles, with
men or without, sent from bases elsewhere.
Once the space craft has landed on the Mars and a go-ahead for a long
stay has been given the crew they will eat and rest for their venture on
the surface the next day. As walkers emerge onto Mars they will have to
lower visors which is coated with a thin, transparent layer of gold which
eliminates unsafe ultraviolet radiation.
As they emerge on the surface they will go around their spacecraft and
look for any damage done and then will grab soil samples in case the
explorers have to make a quick retreat. At the same time they will unload
a roving vehicle in which they will travel.
On foot, explorers would be able to cover a little more than a mile
from the base that they would have set up. If rovers (land vehicles) were
taken along then more area could be covered during exploring the planet and
then would easily be able carried back to their base.
When travelling across the Martian surface there will be many
difficulties encountered by the explorers when using the roving vehicles.
On a manned mission there will be two kinds of roving vehicles one for
smooth surfaces and one for not so smooth surfaces in an effort to increase
the range of exploration. Unmanned rovers might have the same idea as the
Soviet rover which has six wheels, nuclear-powered design and weighing
several hundred pounds and each rover would be equipped with a standard set
of sensors. Several rovers would be dispatched and controlled possiblly by
an orbiting satellite. After the crew has left Mars the rover would still
probe around Mars and collect samples. The rover would be controlled from
Larger manned rovers will also be needed for transporting up to six
hundred and eighty kilogram loads on forty kilometre journeys round trip.
They should be able to go over twenty degree slopes and be able to climb
one foot boulders. Even these rovers would be limited. For more vast
exploration a vehicle with a laboratory would be sent. The weight of the
rover would be between four to five tons but it would be able to transport
two or three crew members for as long as thirty days. The range of the
rover would be 100 kilometres from their base and reach speeds up to
thirty-two kilometres per hour and carry two tons of equipment. In the
Soviet unmanned mission to Mars balloons will be essential when the soviets
arrive there. They have many advantages such as being simple, cheap and
light and would be able to cover thousands of kilometres of land in a few
weeks. After each balloon is unpacked the crew would test its instruments
by plugging it into standard test equipment and then attach a thin plastic
object to it and inflate it with helium which would be in a pressure bottle
and then release the balloon and let it drift independently. The heights
that the balloon could be able to reach would depend on its volume, the
weight of the payload that is in the balloon and the atmospheric
temperature which changes during the course of the day.
Later Manned Mars missions would have planes to explore the surface.
Studies have shown that a powered aircraft would be able to drop scientific
packages, penetrators and even deliver materials needed by parties that are
exploring the planet.
After landing on Mars the crew would bolt together the plane. It
would look like large powered glider and would be launched by a catapult or
rockets. The plane would have fifteen horse power engine and it would be
driven by steam which would be generated by the chemical breakdown of
The tremendous benefit of having a Mars plane is that it can be
reused, it would be easy to manoeuvre and the range the plane would be able
to travel. Maybe one day in a future mission planes would be able to glide
over the surface of the planet which would benefit scientific surface
When the explorers are on the planet their days will be long and
exhausting. Human explorers can explore more efficiently and more
thoroughly than robots can. Humans are more adaptable than robots. Humans
would be able to assess a huge assortment of situations faster and would be
able to adjust to their actions accordingly to what has to be done. A
trained geologist with a rock hammer can accumulate more samples that would
be available around the planet in an hour than an automated rover would be
able to do in a year.
Humans will be extremely valuable in the search for life on the
planet. A professional astronaut would have the skills to easily spot a
protected site that would be favourable to life. An example of this would
be a spot sheltered by a rock. Equipment which is automatic that astronauts
have is better for things like, repetitive measurements which would be
stretched over long periods of time.
Scientific research will be divided into two main categories. There
would be a day to day exploration by the astronauts which would have more
difficult tasks. They would also be responsible for long-term monitoring by
automatic packages which would be left behind when they leave the planet.
The main concern for the astronauts would be geological investigation
of the planet. There might be one or more geologists in a mission to Mars.
Teams of geologists at mission control will plan exploration traverses by
using the orbiter’s to take pictures of the surface. These pictures will
produce a route map that would help the astronauts while they are exploring
the planet. The astronauts will not be just responsible to collect samples
and bring them home but also they must study the rocks while on the planet
and conduct some analyses.
The things that astronauts are looking for is the chemical and mineral
composition of the rocks which would provide them with the information on
the geological history of Mars, at which places were the rocks formed, at
which temperatures and pressures were they formed, development of the
atmosphere and the history of water on Mars. Necessary information will be
profited from the rocks that are on the surface, but when drilling deep
into the ground and dislodging the rock, it will uncover the historical
development of the regions geology.
Each day the astronauts job will be to set on the surface in a rover
which would contain standard geological tools like hammers, chisels, rakes,
sieves and tongs which would enable them to pick up essential rocks even if
they seem awkward to pick up with their space suits on. Connected to their
space suits there will be a gnomon. This unique device is like a tripod
with a free-hanging central rod, which is able to photograph against each
sample before it is dislocated from the surface so the exact location is
know to the astronauts. This photograph shows the scale of each of the
objects removed, slop of the ground and its shadow that indicates the
direction of the Sun. A colour pattern will be attached to the photograph
which allow scientists on Earth to reconstruct the colours which surround
the object removed. This is crucial because cameras sometimes tend to
distort the colour to some degree.
After each sample is photographed their locations would be carefully
written down. The astronaut will then place the samples in hermetically
sealed containers. Geologists would highly recommend that a percentage of
the sample be kept refrigerated at Marslike temperatures to prevent the
soil sample to change on the way back to earth. The astronauts rover would
stop every few hundred feet and soil samples would be tested automatically.
Drilling around the planet would be carried out on a regular basis.
This would be one of the astronauts most vigorous activities. The rover of
the astronaut will carry electrical powered drills and a supply of
aluminium tube sections. The drill will be similar to jack-hammers used in
construction on Earth. The drill will be powered by a compressor using
Mars’ carbon dioxide atmosphere.
Mars’ internal structure will be better understood when scientists
find out the rate of heat flow from the interior. A method of doing this
is by thermometers which would be placed at different depths of Mars.
Little heaters would be positioned near thermometers which would reveal how
heat flows through the material that makes up the surface layers.
Most probably on a trip to Mars there will be complicated apparatus’
for extensive analyses of soil. An electron scanning microscope would
probably be used to look for any tiny fossils and aid in hopes of
distinguish any minerals. An X-ray fluorescence spectrometer will be used
to record the X-rays emitted by materials when they are irradiated by a
radioactive source which will discover the materials present. There also
will be a combined gas chromatography and a mass spectrometer which will
separate and measure the gases that is driven off when a sample is heated
When humans and rovers finally get to the poles, their top priority
will be to get samples of the core which will be taken from the layers of
deposits of ice and dust (which is millions of years old). This would
probably have a record of how the climate has changed over hundreds of
million of years.
There are numerous fascinating surface structures of Mars and when
explorers do go to Mars it will be interesting to see what information they
bring back about the places that have already been identified and the
things and places that remain a mystery to us. These places include the
volcanoes, the north and south poles of Mars, the equatorial canyons, the
unique craters, basins etc. All these places when studied will help us get
a better understanding of the planet which has amazed us from pictures that
were taken from non manned missions.
The volcanoes on the planet are the most startling features of Mars.
There are many volcanoes on Mars but the most sensational is found near the
equatorial region of Tharsis. On the planet, volcanoes have been around
much of the planet’s history. The general shape hints that eruptions of
fluid lava has very small amounts of ash in it. The chemical composition
of the terrestrial volcanoes on the planet shows that lava and the rate at
which the volcanoes erupted affected the volcanoes’s final structure.
The craters of Mars have a huge ranges from little as a several meters
across to huge broad basins which are up to hundreds of kilometres in
diameter. The southern hemisphere contains hardly any craters which is
visible but in the northern hemisphere there an abundant amount of craters.
There are about sixteen basins on Mars each one larger than0 two
hundred and fifty kilometres in diameter somewhere on the surface of Mars.
Each basin appears to be vast and multi-ringed. Some basins are fairly new
but the others are significantly old which look considerable eroded
There are many striking features of Mars but we must understand the
dilemma that is on Mars about the water. There are many things on the
surface of Mars that look like water channels. Many years ago scientists
thought that these channels were made by erosion, by lava, or the wind
might have made these channels but this no longer holds true today.
Scientists know that water did once exist in huge quantities by the visible
channels of Mars.
We have found out that water did once exist on Mars but where has it
all gone? Unfavourable scientists can only take a guess by what is know
about the planet and then estimate at how much water Mars once had, how
much of the water escaped on the surface and how much of it is hidden to
the naked eye.
The amount of water that is on Mars is negligible. The polar caps of
Mars contain some water but they are mixed with frozen carbon dioxide and
dust so the quantity of water is not known. The permafrost underground is
another water supply. The colder the conditions of Mars then the more
chance of finding permafrost under the surface of Mars. There are
estimates that at the poles the permafrost is well up to eight kilometres
thick and lie just a few centimetres below the surface. Near the equator
the permafrost is estimated to be up to, two to three kilometres thick and
just a few metres deep.
When a trip to Mars takes place and in the near future it will many
scientist, researchers and the people will be excited to learn what the
planet is like. There are many fascinating things on Mars that still
remain a mystery today and a manned mission to Mars will help us unravel
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Asimov, Isaac. MARS: Our Mysterious Neighbor. Milwaukee: Gareth Stevens
Simon, Seymour. MARS. New York: William Morrow and Company. 1987
Frank Miles and Nicholas Booth. Race to Mars. New York: Harper
and Row publishers. 1988