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Mars will be invaded by 2020 – A race to find life

Mars will be invaded by 2020 - A race to find life 88
Space powers compete to find evidence of life on Mars in the year 2020.
Mars will be invaded by 2020 - want to find life
Mars. Credit: NASA

This year, for a few weeks, Mars and Earth will be aligned. The distance between the two will be the smallest – only 54 million kilometers – something that will not happen again until 2022. So by 2020 there will be an unprecedented fact since the end of the Cold War: the launch of four robotic missions to this planet. , three of them led by leading space powers, the US, Europe and China, which aim to successfully land their own exploration vehicles with the intention of being the first to find evidence of life.

Ken Farley says, chief scientific officer of NASA’s Mars 2020 mission says:

This is something never seen. The above-mentioned projects need to add India’s recently launched orbit vehicle and the “growing enthusiasm” of private companies like Space X to reach this planet.

Mars is a huge graveyard of crashed ships. One in two space missions that try to reach failure. Landing on Mars requires a complicated maneuver to brake from the 21,000 kilometers per hour the ship reaches zero in just seven minutes, largely without the help of the much finer-than-earth Martian atmosphere and at the mercy of the time of the world. day on this inhospitable planet where it is not uncommon to reach temperatures of 100 degrees below zero.

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An engineer works on NASA’s Mars 2020 vehicle. NASA

In 2016, the ExoMars ship was hit by a violent gust of wind in altitude. The ship moved like a huge pendulum as it was still attached to the parachute and its altitude sensors suddenly aimed at the horizon instead of the surface. The on-board computer interpreted that the ship had landed, shut down the backstop early, and ExoMars crashed into the icy Martian soil.

This mission was a demonstration of the landing technology that is now to be used by ExoMars 2020, the mission of its counterpart European Space Agency. Those responsible for the European mission do not see the accident as a failure and think they have learned and solved the problem.

The three missions mentioned, in addition to the fourth, the United Arab Emirates Hope orbit module, developed thanks to the collaboration of US scientists, have very similar launch windows that start in mid-July and end in mid-August. It will take seven months to arrive on the red planet, so landings are scheduled for February 2021.

“Our main goal is to look for life traces on Mars over 3.5 billion years old, when liquid water covered much of the planet,” says Ken Farley. NASA’s mission will land at the bottom of an ancient lake several hundred meters deep called the Jezero crater. “In a place like this, microbes like Earth’s could have lived without problems,” says the California Institute of Technology geochemistry expert.

Another US goal is to set the stage for sending astronauts to the red planet. At this point, Spain plays an important role as it leads the MEDA instrument, the weather station aboard the exploration vehicle that measures temperature, wind, dust particles and radiation and will be used to estimate the planet’s habitability for future astronauts. Another instrument is an oxygen detector, an essential element for making Martian air breathable and for fueling rockets that will take off from Martian soil to Earth in the future.

“The most innovative of the US and European missions is that they bring a new generation of Raman spectrometers because they can detect biomarkers at a distance,” says Jorge Pla-García, an astrophysicist at the Madrid Center for Astrobiology, who is part of the northern mission. They are chemical compounds that can exist by the presence of current and past life. At this point, Europe may be at an advantage, says Pla-García. The European vehicle is the only one carrying a drill that penetrates up to two meters into Martian soil. “This is the most feasible place for anything to live, as everything on the surface is burned not only by radiation but by the abundance of chlorine salts, which is the material we use to kill microbes on Earth,” the researcher says.

China, the third Martian passenger, had never been able to travel there. The communist country’s space progress was impressive and demonstrated its ability to accomplish things it had never done before, such as landing a Rover on the moon’s hidden side. Its mission to Mars Huoxing-1 includes an orbital module, a landing module and a small Rover whose the main asset is a powerful radar that can penetrate the Martian subsoil to reveal its composition and which, on the moon, allowed to discover an ancient ocean of lava. “If it were any other country, I would think they weren’t capable, but from China I believe in anything. Just think that in 2019, for the second year in a row, it is the country that has made the most space launches in the world, ”says Pla-García.

In the minds of the three countries is the idea of ​​bringing a piece of Mars to Earth. The US Rover carries an instrument that can encapsulate the most interesting samples and preserve them so that a future mission yet to be organized can pick them up and bring them back to Earth. Both the US and China want to try to accomplish this before the end of the decade, and Europe and the US are already collaborating on such a mission to be launched in 2026, says Ken Farley. Everyone is aware that in these samples the first known Martians can travel.

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Space

KOI-5Ab, the curious planet that orbits in a system of three suns

KOI-5Ab, the curious planet that orbits in a system of three suns 92
Photo: (Caltech / R. Hurt (IPAC))

To us, the Sun alone seems perfectly normal, but our solar system is actually a strange exception.

Most stars in the Milky Way galaxy have at least one companion star. In a system 1,800 light-years away, astronomers have finally confirmed the existence of a gas giant planet orbiting stars in a triple star system.

Called KOI-5, the system is located in the constellation Cygnus, and the exoplanet was confirmed ten years after it was first detected by the Kepler space telescope.

In fact, the planet – now known as KOI-5Ab – was discovered by Kepler when it began operations back in 2009.

“KOI-5Ab was dropped because it was difficult and we had thousands of other candidates,” astronomer David Siardi of NASA’s Exoplanet Science Institute said.

“There were lighter dives than the KOI-5Ab, and every day we learned something new from Kepler, so the KOI-5 was almost forgotten.”

Exoplanet hunters tend to avoid the complexities of multi-star systems; of the more than 4,300 exoplanets confirmed to date, less than 10 percent are multi-star systems, although such systems dominate the galaxy. As a result, little is known about the properties of exoplanets in multi-star systems compared to those orbiting a lone star.

After Kepler’s discovery, Chardy and other astronomers used ground-based telescopes such as the Palomar Observatory, Keck Observatory, and the Gemini North Telescope to study the system. By 2014, they had identified two companion stars, KOI-5B and KOI-5C.

Scientists were able to establish that the planet KOI-5Ab, is a gas giant that is about half the mass of Saturn and 7 times the size of Earth, and is in a very close five-day orbit around KOI-5A. KOI-5A and KOI-5B, both of roughly the same mass as the Sun, form a relatively close binary system with an orbital period of about 30 years.

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A third star, KOI-5C, orbits the binary system at a much greater distance, with a period of about 400 years – slightly longer than Pluto’s 248-year orbit.

“By studying this system in more detail, perhaps we can understand how planets are created in the universe.”

The discovery was announced at the 237th meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

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Space

Why the universe does not fit into science

Why the universe does not fit into science 94
Photo: YouTube

Science can be compared to an artist painting what he has never seen, or to a writer describing other people’s travels: objects that he has never seen, places where he has never been. Sometimes such scientific “arts” turn out to be beautiful and interesting, but most of them will forever remain only theories, because they are beyond human capabilities.

In fact, science has the right only to speculate: how our universe appeared, how old it is, how many stars and other objects it contains.

Universe model

Why the universe does not fit into science 95

How many stars are there in the sky?

With an unarmed eye, a person can see about nine thousand stars in the sky in one cloudless and moonless night. And armed with binoculars or a telescope, much more – up to several million. However, this is much less than their true number in the universe. Indeed, only in our one galaxy (the Milky Way) there are about 400 billion stars. The exact amount, of course, is not known to science. And the visible universe contains about 170 billion galaxies.

It is worth clarifying that scientists can see the universe 46 billion light years deep in all directions. And the visible (observable) universe includes the space accessible to our eyes from the moment of the Big Explosion. In other words, only this (accessible to human perception) space science refers to our universe. Science does not consider everything that follows.

It is believed that there are supposedly a ceptillion (10 to 24 degrees) stars in our universe. These are theoretical calculations based on the approximate size and age of the universe. The origin of the universe is explained by the Big Bang theory. This is why the universe is constantly expanding and the more time passes, the more complex the universe and its components become.

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It is not entirely correct to consider and perceive this scientific theory “head-on”. Scientists always claim that that explosion was not exactly an explosion, and the point that exploded was not the only one. After all, it was everywhere, because space did not exist then. And in general – everything happened quite differently from what is described in the Big Bang theory, but all other descriptions of the origin of the universe are even more incredible and inaccurate.

Separate but interconnected

That which is beyond the reach of human perception is usually discarded by science, or recognized as non-existent. Recognizing one thing, science does not want to recognize the existence of the other, although everything in our world is interconnected and is not able to exist separately – by itself.

Each object of the universe is a part of it much more than an independent, separate object.

Any person, like any material object of our world, consists of components: organs, cells, molecules, atoms. And each of its constituent parts can represent the whole world. Separate, and at the same time connected with all the others.

However, science, as a rule, perceives all the components of the universe – people, animals, plants, objects, the Earth, the Sun, other planets and stars – as separate subjects, thereby limiting itself.

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Even what is considered the visible universe, one of the atoms of which could be called our solar system, is not subject to the boundaries of human perception. But perhaps the atom is an exaggeration, and our solar system is not even an atom, but one of its elements!

How, being so far from the truth, can one reason about something with the degree of probability with which science tries to reason about the origin of the universe?

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Space

An unexplained wobble shifts the poles of Mars

An unexplained wobble shifts the poles of Mars 98

The red planet sways from side to side like a whirligig when it loses speed. The new study allowed scientists to notice that the poles of Mars deviate slightly from the axis of rotation of the planet. On average, they move 10 cm from the center with a period of 200 days.

Such changes are called the Chandler Oscillations  – after the American astronomer Seth Chandler, who discovered them in 1891. Previously, they were only seen on Earth. It is known that the displacement of the poles of rotation of our planet occurs with a period of 433 days, while the amplitude reaches 15 meters. There is no exact answer why this is happening. It is believed that the fluctuations are influenced by processes in the ocean and the Earth’s atmosphere.

Chandler’s wobbles on Mars are equally perplexing. The authors of the study discovered them by comparing data from 18 years of studying the planet. The information was obtained thanks to three spacecraft that orbit the Red Planet: Mars Odyssey, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Global Surveyor. 

Since Mars has no oceans, it is likely that the Red Planet’s wobbly rotation is due to changes in atmospheric pressure. This is the first explanation that researchers have shared. In the future, there should be new details about the fluctuations that have so interested the scientific community.

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