Three space probes will explore Mars – this is what we know about space projects

On Thursday 18 February, NASA’s Mars Expedition is expected to reach the planet and land the rover Perserverance. The maneuver is spectacular, risky, and Nasa called it “seven minutes of horror”.

The text is updated.

Latest news:

  • On Thursday 18 February, NASA’s Perserverance will land on Mars. Watch a film about how the landing is planned further down in the article.
  • Both Chinese Tianwen-1 and the United Arab Emirates ‘al-Amal spacecraft have reached Mars’ orbit.

Read more about the news later in the article.

Why are we exploring Mars right now?

It is no coincidence that three spacecraft began their journey from Earth to Mars in the summer of 2020. The distance between Mars and Earth varies between just over 5.6 million miles and 40 million miles. In the summer of 2020, the distance between the planets was the shortest, which provides the most cost-effective conditions for sending spacecraft to Mars. You do not need as much rocket fuel.

Why do we explore Mars at all?

Our solar system’s second smallest planet, about half the diameter of Earth’s, does not seem very homely. Yet more and more scientists, engineers and others have begun to seriously question whether we humans should one day not be able to move to and live on Mars. Then we must know more about the conditions that exist on the planet.

The average temperature in March is -63 ° C. The atmosphere is significantly thinner than the Earth’s, and consists mainly of carbon dioxide. The planet also lacks protection from the sun’s ultraviolet light.

The surface is dry. Above the surface and in the atmosphere there are large amounts of iron oxide. This is what has given the planet the nickname “The Red Planet”.

Three space probes to Mars


The United Arab Emirates aims to establish a human base on Mars by 2117. The al-Amal spacecraft (“Hope”) could be a step on the way there.

Al-Amal is the country’s first space probe, developed by the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center. Tuesday the February 9, 2021 arrived at the spacecraft to Mars, where it entered orbit to study the planet’s atmosphere and weather.

The hope is that al-Amal will give us a better understanding of the climate on Mars, and validate data retrieved from the planet’s surface.

– The climate on Mars is quite complex. It has, for example, sandstorms that can become so large that they enclose the planet and block the sun. Most of the planet’s thin atmosphere consists of carbon dioxide, and a significant proportion of it freezes in winter and forms ice clouds and polar ice caps of carbon dioxide, the French astrophysicist and Mars expert François Forget has explained the magazine National Geographic.


With the Tianwen-1 spacecraft (“Questions to Heaven”), China is not only making its first attempt to reach Mars. It is the country’s first own expedition to another planet.

From February, the space probe will begin orbiting Mars, with the aim of taking pictures and collecting data.

This summer, a module with a six-wheeled, approximately 200 kilogram heavy, rover will detach from the probe and land in the crater Utopia Planitia.

The rover is powered by solar panels and will carry out its investigations using radar. It will perform chemical analyzes of the landing site and look for biomolecules and biosignatures.

It will look for water and traces of past lives.


NASA has an ambitious goal: to have humans on Mars as early as the next decade.

On February 18, 2021, NASA’s rover Perseverance is expected to land on Mars. Among other things, it will look for traces of past lives. It will take samples in soil and bedrock.

On board the rover is also the world’s first space helicopter. It is solar cell powered and in drone size.

Since the density of Mars’ atmosphere is just over 1 percent of that of the Earth, it will be a challenge to get the helicopter to take off. The rotor blades must spin ten times faster than those sitting on helicopters on the ground. If you make the space helicopter fly, it will be the first time that humans have made it happen in a different atmosphere than Earth’s.

Are any Swedes working on the Mars project?

Sandra Siljeström is an astrobiologist at the research institute Rise and one of five Europeans who are part of NASA’s Mars 2020 team. She works on a daily basis, among other things, analyzing meteorites from the red planet. Now the task is to select which samples to collect from the surface of Mars, and what information to collect about these samples.

– There are no samples from Mars on Earth except from meteorites. We do not know where on Mars they come from, and what environment they come from. We are now developing techniques and protocols to be able to collect samples from the surface, which can provide new answers, she tells Ny Teknik.

2021-02-18: See Perserverance land on Mars

It’s tight for NASA’s Perserverance. Here you can follow the dramatic final phase when it will land on Mars:

If all goes well, the idea is for the rover to look for traces of past life on the red planet.

2021-02-17: “Seven minutes of horror” when Perserverance will land on Mars

The landing will take place on Thursday 18 February. The US rover is so big and heavy – it weighs just over a ton and has been compared to a minibus – that it can not land itself. Therefore, the Space Agency Nasa uses a complicated landing via crane.

– It is quite spectacular, says Mats Holmström, researcher at the Institute of Space Physics (IRF) in Kiruna, to TT.

Illustration of how the landing of Perserverance will go. Photo: NASA / JPL-Caltech

The process begins in the usual way, with rockets and parachutes that gradually slow down to almost walking speed.

– And then what is called a skycrane (“flying crane”) is used, which winches Perseverance to the surface. Then the skycrane flies away and crashes, it is used up, says Mats Holmström.

The entire landing must be handled by the probe itself, without the aid of commands from the ground, as the distance is so great that radio signals do not make it during the landing.

Nasa sees the maneuver as very risky, and has dubbed the landing a “seven-minute horror”, if nothing else for the personnel sitting here on earth waiting for the probe’s signal of how it went.

2021-02-10: Tianwen-1 reaches its orbit

The Chinese spacecraft Tianwen-1 has also now reached its orbit around Mars. The spacecraft began its journey towards the planet on July 23 last year.

The rover included in the project is expected to land on the surface of Mars in May or June and will collect information about the planet over a period of three months.

The Chinese space mission includes performing measurements of the planet’s climate, and looking for traces of water.

2021-02-10: The space probe “Jump” reaches Mars

After a 204-day journey through space, the al-Amal spacecraft arrived in orbit around Mars just before four o’clock in the afternoon, Swedish time. Just over half an hour later, the probe sent its first signal back to the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center in Dubai.

Some experts said that the chance of success in entering the atmosphere could be as low as 50 percent, as more than half of all similar Martians had failed. The probe had 27 minutes to reduce its speed from around 100,000 kilometers per hour, to 18,000.

But it succeeded, and al-Amal was captured by the gravity of Mars. With that, the United Arab Emirates is the second country ever to succeed in its first attempt to send a probe to Mars. The first country to do so was India.


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