Science | January 3, 2021 11:37 am

This Year Could Be Huge For the Exploration of Mars

Multiple nations' efforts to explore the planet should come to fruition

Mars
The surface of Mars.
NASA/JPL

As the new year begins, it’s a time for cautious optimism for what 2021 might bring in certain aspects of life. One area that could be seeing huge steps forward this year is the exploration of the solar system — specifically, Mars. That isn’t to say that 2020 wasn’t also big when it came to the Red Planet: the United States launched a rover bound for Mars, while Elon Musk formed up SpaceX’s own Martian exploration plans.

A new article by David Axe at The Daily Beast neatly summarizes what we know about the year to come in space exploration — and why its impact on Mars is so potentially huge.

To begin with, the year should see efforts from 3 different countries — the United States, China and the United Arab Emirates — all converging on Mars within a few days of one another. The UAE’s mission is sending an orbiter to obtain data about the planet, while both China’s and the USA’s will involve rovers exploring the Martian surface.

China’s probe, the Tianwen-1, is described in the article as “a combination orbiter-lander-rover,” which makes for an innovative approach to planetary exploration. And the US’s Perseverance rover will embark on a lengthy mission searching for signs of microbial life. It’s an ambitious goal — but if all goes well, 2021 could be the year we learn a lot more about the fourth planet in our solar system.

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