Mars brightens up to its maximum brilliance in nearly 60,000
years, we cannot but think about what Mars has in store
for us in the future. With Global Surveyor and
Odyssey already at Mars, and with Nozomi, Mars Express
and the MER rovers poised to reach the planet in a few
months, there is much to keep us occupied.
However, we must also look to the missions of 2005, 2007,
2009 and beyond, being prepared for each opportunity we
encounter Mars. For example, planetary geologist
Phil Christensen has instruments on Global Surveyor,
Odyssey and the MERs, but he is already planning a
proposal for the 2009 lander.
|Mars, a bright,
red disk in the sky.
© Imagiverse Educational Consortium
are going to play a big role in these missions.
Increasingly, students have been involved in data
acquisition and analysis, becoming participating
scientists for a week or two. They will, in the
future be selecting imaging targets, help drive rovers
and a lot more.
2005, there will be the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO),
an orbiter with a plethora of science instruments.
It will take pictures in high-resolution, characterize
the mineral composition, and track the weather patterns
on Mars. Unlike the recent Mars missions, MRO will
launch aboard an Atlas V-401 rocket because of Earth's
particular alignment with Mars and because of MRO's
heavier comprehensive payload. Set to reach Mars in
the spring of 2006, MRO will bring public -- and
inevitably kids' -- involvement in science operations.
In particular, HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science
Experiment) will collect recommendations for imaging
targets. HiRISE is an optical telescope capable of
resolving objects 1 meter (3.2 feet) across on Mars.
The data return will be huge. The MRO team is
committed to an expansive Education and Public Outreach (E/PO)
effort to teach the public about Mars and to let them in
on mission activities. Dubbed "The People';s
Camera", HiRISE is trailblazing just that.
model in the Grand Canyon
August 4, NASA announced its plans for 2007: The Phoenix
lander. Phoenix will land in the upper-northern
latitudes of Mars, investigating the sub-polar terrain.
These sub-polar areas are believed to contain large
deposits of water ice in the soil, a vital element for
life as we know it. Phoenix is the first "Scout"
mission, an innovative program for scientists to plan and
propose entire missions from which NASA will choose to
may seem may seem like a long while, but scientists are
already in full blast coming up with proposals. In
addition to the proposed Scout missions, there will also
be international contribution to Mars exploration.
For example, Japan's space agency (NASDA) has an orbiter
en route to Mars. Europe has a lander to set foot
on the planet Christmas Day 2003. France has a
radio science instrument on Global Surveyor. Russia has the High Energy Neutron Detector on Mars Odyssey.
Germany and Denmark have the Mössbauer Spectrometer on the MER rovers.
Canada will be contributing a lidar device for the
Phoenix Scout mission. There will also be more
European-led expeditions in the near future. The
international pace will increase as we prepare for the
ultimate goal: to send humans to Mars. No doubt,
such an endeavour will require the expertise and
commitment of a group of nations.
the world appears to be set to embark on the next frontier in space.
Mars will be this generation's moon, and it will be as exciting as
the first steps on another world, 34 years ago.
Send your questions
about Mars exploration to: Imagiverse - Ask The Expert
- 7 August 2003