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The Race to Mars in 2020

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Mars is our next door neighbor, yet we almost never visit. But in July of 2020 humans are launching four separate missions to Mars.
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The missions are all launching in July 2020 because it is the ideal time to get a spacecraft to Mars while using the least amount of rocket fuel.

But not because the two planets are at their closest, instead it has to do with something called a Hohmann transfer orbit—the most efficient way to send a spacecraft to Mars.

This orbit is elliptical, and uses the sun as one focal point. The spacecraft’s launch is at the closest point to the sun, or perihelion, and it crosses Mars’ path at its farthest point from the sun, or aphelion. It is very important that Mars is actually there when the spacecraft arrives, but for that to happen the spacecraft has to be launched at just the right time.

The time it takes a spacecraft to travel from perihelion to its aphelion in Mars’ orbit is approximately 259 days. During that time Mars will move about 136 degrees, since Mars is farther from the sun than Earth and takes longer to move the same angular distance.

So in order to sync up the 180 degrees the spacecraft will travel while Mars moves 136 degrees, the spacecraft needs to launch when Mars has a 44 degree head start. This happens for a few weeks once every 26 months, and the next time it will happen is mid-July of 2020.

And so, this time around a lot of space agencies are geared up for launch.

Find out more about all the July 2020 missions to the Red Planet in this Elements.

#Mars #NASA #Space #seeker #science #elements


Read More:
Mars 2020: The search for ancient life is on
https://news.mit.edu/2020/mars-2020-search-for-ancient-life-is-on-0221
"If there is a story of life on Mars, there may also be a story of death — the catastrophic loss of an atmosphere, and potentially with it, a temperate environment and liquid water. 'The big question is, why did Mars go from being warm and wet to cold and dry,' says Weiss, a planetary geophysicist. 'One of the leading ideas is that it lost its atmosphere.'"

Nasa's 2020 rover: Can we finally answer the big question about Mars?
https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-51544476
"So how will people react if a rover finds something intriguing imprinted in billions-of-years-old rock on another planet? 2020 mission scientist Jim Bell from Arizona State University is candid in his response: 'We can make a claim about a biosignature, but it's not clear to me anyone would believe us,' he said."

The moon, Mars and beyond… the space race in 2020
https://www.theguardian.com/science/2020/jan/05/space-race-moon-mars-asteroids-commercial-launches
"At last, humanity is returning to explore the heavens with renewed vigour. However, it is not just the US and Russia that are dominating this year’s space agenda. India, Japan and China are all planning complex programmes and are vying to become space powers in their own rights."

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