Mars, a planet that has been fascinating the mankind from a long time now. There is no end to curiosity and the obsession that our scientists have for Mars. The fact that this planet is similar to Earth and its proximity, raises the possibility to have life on Mars. Scientists have started much research in the historic past and are continuing till today. Some shreds of evidence also prove the surface environment of Mars has liquid water. But this cannot be the sole reason to verify our curiosity. As the existence of habitable conditions does not necessarily indicate the presence of life.
Currently, our researchers are busy with the dirt present on Mars. Some claim it to be the most expensive substance known to the human race. This interest towards dirt is also to find results to our questions that, whether there is any possibility of life on Mars? The upcoming mission of NASA is to bring the Martian soil present on Mars. The overall mission will be divided into three courses, and by the end, NASA can have nearly 2 pounds of Martian soil. The aim of collecting this is again the same, to examine the traces of ancient life on Red Planet. Concerning the cost, the three missions will need around 9 billion USD. To put it simply, NASA would spend about 200,000 times the cost of two pounds of gold. They made all these expenses to bring a little less than 1 kilogram of Martian soil. The three missions will go accordingly one after another, the first one will examine and collect the soil samples. The second mission will focus on gathering the sample and pack them into a launcher that will be set in motion in Mars’ orbit. And lastly, the ultimate third mission will bring the samples of Martian soil back to Earth.
To our surprise, NASA has already started the first mission and launched the NASA–Perseverance rover–in July 2020, which landed on Mars in February 2021. Notably, this will be the first time in history, a human will be able to physically touch and interact with a piece of another planet. As per a report presented by Business Insider, the Perseverance rover is searching for traces of life near a crater which is a site of an ancient Martian lake bed. Hence, the high-resolution cameras are installed on the rover, that alone cost USD 20 million alone. The entire mission will complete by 2023, according to NASA. But that doesn’t mean, we will have the Martian soil on earth by 2023, it will nearly take a decade from now for the soil samples to reach back to the earth.
Let us go a bit deeper into this topic, starting with the nickname of the rover i.e., Percy. So, Percy has arrived on Mars after years of planning and 7 months of voyage. Besides this, scientists must make sure that they don’t contaminate the environment that they are trying to explore. For this mission to Mars, the engineers have designed a system to protect the sample for up to 10 years. NASA calls it the most intricate and technologically advanced system sent to space.
Criticism for the Mars Mission
In contrast to all this, Elon Musk has said that according to him there won’t be anything on Mars that would be worth transporting back to Earth. He added, “I don’t think it’s going to be economical to mine things on Mars and then transport them back to Earth because the transport costs would overwhelm the value of whatever you mined, but there will likely be a lot of mining on Mars that’s useful for a Mars base, but it’s unlikely to be transferred back to Earth. I think the economic exchange between a Mars base and Earth would be mostly in the form of intellectual property.”
The eyes of humankind are set on the priceless dirt ever. Everyone wants the answers to satisfy their curiosity. And hopefully, all the questions will be answers after a decade, once the mission is entirely over.
NASA’s Mars Exploration Program