While many companies and space agencies dream of putting a human on Mars, current limitations make that goal next to impossible. Recent research confirms that the effects of long-term space travel on human astronauts is significant, and could lead to massive physical and mental problems – and ultimately, a premature death. Until we iron out the details, we’ll have to rely on unmanned missions. Currently, both NASA and the Chinese national space agencies are racing to develop missions to obtain a sample from Mars within the next 10 years.
Obtaining a Sample From Mars
The best opportunity to learn more about the red planet would be to obtain a sample from Mars and then study it back here on Earth. While rovers and satellites can give us some valuable information about Mars, the fact remains that it’s a poor substitute for actually getting our hands on materials. With the advanced equipment and capabilities that space agencies have here on earth, a physical sample from Mars would be a huge boon in our process to understand more about the world around us.
As mentioned above, both NASA and the Chinese national space agency are in a rush to obtain a sample from Mars by the end of the 2020’s. That may seem like a long time from now, but advancements in research – as well as the physical time travelling to such a distant planet – make the deadline a little ambitious.
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Obtaining a sample from Mars would help scientists understand more about the planet, as well as our solar system at large. While the goal is to obtain the sample within the next ten years, the agencies admit that the technology to bring a sample from Mars back to earth is not currently in existence. Still, with a renewed interest in space travel largely spurred forward by the efforts and successes of private companies like SpaceX, there are a lot of bright minds working diligently to give us the knowledge and equipment we need to make retrieving a sample from Mars a realistic possibility.
As mentioned above, there’s really no substitute for getting our hands on a real sample from Mars. There’s only so much we can do with our current technology, and the implications of obtaining a sample reach far behind learning more about martian rocks.
Mars is looking like an area that could potentially support life, with evidence of water – and even complete seas – suggesting that at least simple organisms could have existed at some point in the past. By learning more about a planet with some small similarities to our own, we may learn more about the history and future of Earth.
Both the Chinese and American missions will be carried out in multiple stages, with a preliminary mission scheduled ahead of the actual expedition that will obtain a sample from Mars. It’s clear that there are some major hurdles to overcome if either agency is to obtain a physical sample. However, it’s clear that the mission is worthwhile and may unlock secrets about Mars, Earth, and the rest of our solar system.