MARS SURFACE EXPLORATIONOne question that is being asked by people is, “Why go to Mars”? Thereasons are very simple. People want to gain recognition of how they werethe first people who went to Mars and opened up a whole new world and mostimportantly to move forward in economics. As humans waste the precious materials and resources found on thisplanet we have to consider going to other planets to explore for materialsand energy resources. Mars would be the first area for industrialdevelopment and mining in the “new world”. There are talks that by the end of this century that a manned missionto Mars should take place. We must start preparing ourselves properly inorder to explore Mars better.Order now
Scientists and researchers hopes whenexploring Mars is to find interesting minerals or matter that will help usunderstand what Mars was like millions and millions of years ago. The first manned mission to Mars will be more complex then that of thefirst Moon landing which the main goal for going to the Moon was to justland safely. The main thing that researchers and scientists are strivingfor is exploratory, searching for useful raw materials such as water and atthe same time building up an extensive scientific picture of Mars-its stateat the present moment, its history and what the future developments aregoing to be. As astronauts journey to Mars and finally reach there the main concernand top priority when landing will be the astronauts safety.
There will bemore flexibility when choosing a landing site. The astronauts will decidewhere they want to land but must take into consideration that the rovingvehicles would be able to provide extended range when travelling on thesurface of Mars. This most probably would ensure that the sites that arein the scientists interest would easily be accessible. Possible landing sites must be chosen under one goal, that would bethe overall understanding of the surface and not by a place that looksattractive or has special features even if they seem alluring.
The thingsthat have to be taken in account for possible landing sites are:- guaranteeing that the explorers will touch down at the place which isspecified;- choosing a place where possible interesting geological features may be found;- choosing an area where rocks have recently been exposed;- a certain area must be specified of where the roving vehicles may go. Regions on Mars that have extensive dune fields and barely anybedrock, the surface mobilities should be within a few kilometres toguarantee that samples can be obtained without any difficulty. Landingsites that have easy access to more than one type of interesting terrainhas an advantage but unfortunately these sites lean to be more on the roughside and might pose to be a weighty hazard and obstacles might be in theway of roving vehicles. There are a possible of ten prime landing sites that might be chosenwhen a manned mission to Mars has taken place. The Kasei and Mangalavalles are made up of striking features which seem to have channels thatare evidently engraved by flowing water from the past.
Extensive studieswould provide significant clues to why Mars lost reserves of water. Theselocations would offer and give explorers a big advantage as this area isclose to the large volcanoes and volcanic plains that are near the equator,which will have affected their geology a tremendous deal. There are other riveting sites other than these, but they aredifficult to reach for a manned mission to Mars. The Polar region sitesare precluded for manned missions because fuel would be expensive to changeform an initial parking orbit to a tilted orbit in order to make itpossible to land there.
With non-polar sites, it would be difficult toland on a gigantic volcanoes or canyons. The problems with visiting thesouthern hemisphere regions is that it is less attractive then the northernhemisphere and the terrain is much more rougher. These areas are also theorigin of dust storms and if a spacecraft were to land there it would befoolish. Although these regions are not going to be explored by explorers,at a later time or date they will be visited by long-range vehicles, withmen or without, sent from bases elsewhere.
Once the space craft has landed on the Mars and a go-ahead for a longstay has been given the crew they will eat and rest for their venture onthe surface the next day. As walkers emerge onto Mars they will have tolower visors which is coated with a thin, transparent layer of gold whicheliminates unsafe ultraviolet radiation. As they emerge on the surface they will go around their spacecraft andlook for any damage done and then will grab soil samples in case theexplorers have to make a quick retreat. At the same time they will unloada roving vehicle in which they will travel. On foot, explorers would be able to cover a little more than a milefrom the base that they would have set up. If rovers (land vehicles) weretaken along then more area could be covered during exploring the planet andthen would easily be able carried back to their base.
When travelling across the Martian surface there will be manydifficulties encountered by the explorers when using the roving vehicles. On a manned mission there will be two kinds of roving vehicles one forsmooth surfaces and one for not so smooth surfaces in an effort to increasethe range of exploration. Unmanned rovers might have the same idea as theSoviet rover which has six wheels, nuclear-powered design and weighingseveral hundred pounds and each rover would be equipped with a standard setof sensors. Several rovers would be dispatched and controlled possiblly byan orbiting satellite. After the crew has left Mars the rover would stillprobe around Mars and collect samples.
The rover would be controlled fromearth. Larger manned rovers will also be needed for transporting up to sixhundred and eighty kilogram loads on forty kilometre journeys round trip. They should be able to go over twenty degree slopes and be able to climbone foot boulders. Even these rovers would be limited. For more vastexploration a vehicle with a laboratory would be sent. The weight of therover would be between four to five tons but it would be able to transporttwo or three crew members for as long as thirty days.
The range of therover would be 100 kilometres from their base and reach speeds up tothirty-two kilometres per hour and carry two tons of equipment. In theSoviet unmanned mission to Mars balloons will be essential when the sovietsarrive there. They have many advantages such as being simple, cheap andlight and would be able to cover thousands of kilometres of land in a fewweeks. After each balloon is unpacked the crew would test its instrumentsby plugging it into standard test equipment and then attach a thin plasticobject to it and inflate it with helium which would be in a pressure bottleand then release the balloon and let it drift independently. The heightsthat the balloon could be able to reach would depend on its volume, theweight of the payload that is in the balloon and the atmospherictemperature which changes during the course of the day.
Later Manned Mars missions would have planes to explore the surface. Studies have shown that a powered aircraft would be able to drop scientificpackages, penetrators and even deliver materials needed by parties that areexploring the planet. After landing on Mars the crew would bolt together the plane. Itwould look like large powered glider and would be launched by a catapult orrockets. The plane would have fifteen horse power engine and it would bedriven by steam which would be generated by the chemical breakdown ofhydrazine. The tremendous benefit of having a Mars plane is that it can bereused, it would be easy to manoeuvre and the range the plane would be ableto travel.
Maybe one day in a future mission planes would be able to glideover the surface of the planet which would benefit scientific surfaceexploration. When the explorers are on the planet their days will be long andexhausting. Human explorers can explore more efficiently and morethoroughly than robots can. Humans are more adaptable than robots. Humanswould be able to assess a huge assortment of situations faster and would beable to adjust to their actions accordingly to what has to be done.
Atrained geologist with a rock hammer can accumulate more samples that wouldbe available around the planet in an hour than an automated rover would beable to do in a year. Humans will be extremely valuable in the search for life on theplanet. A professional astronaut would have the skills to easily spot aprotected site that would be favourable to life. An example of this wouldbe a spot sheltered by a rock. Equipment which is automatic that astronautshave is better for things like, repetitive measurements which would bestretched over long periods of time.
Scientific research will be divided into two main categories. Therewould be a day to day exploration by the astronauts which would have moredifficult tasks. They would also be responsible for long-term monitoring byautomatic packages which would be left behind when they leave the planet. The main concern for the astronauts would be geological investigationof the planet.
There might be one or more geologists in a mission to Mars. Teams of geologists at mission control will plan exploration traverses byusing the orbiter’s to take pictures of the surface. These pictures willproduce a route map that would help the astronauts while they are exploringthe planet. The astronauts will not be just responsible to collect samplesand bring them home but also they must study the rocks while on the planetand conduct some analyses. The things that astronauts are looking for is the chemical and mineralcomposition of the rocks which would provide them with the information onthe geological history of Mars, at which places were the rocks formed, atwhich temperatures and pressures were they formed, development of theatmosphere and the history of water on Mars. Necessary information will beprofited from the rocks that are on the surface, but when drilling deepinto the ground and dislodging the rock, it will uncover the historicaldevelopment of the regions geology.
Each day the astronauts job will be to set on the surface in a roverwhich would contain standard geological tools like hammers, chisels, rakes,sieves and tongs which would enable them to pick up essential rocks even ifthey seem awkward to pick up with their space suits on. Connected to theirspace suits there will be a gnomon. This unique device is like a tripodwith a free-hanging central rod, which is able to photograph against eachsample before it is dislocated from the surface so the exact location isknow to the astronauts. This photograph shows the scale of each of theobjects removed, slop of the ground and its shadow that indicates thedirection of the Sun. A colour pattern will be attached to the photographwhich allow scientists on Earth to reconstruct the colours which surroundthe object removed. This is crucial because cameras sometimes tend todistort the colour to some degree.
After each sample is photographed their locations would be carefullywritten down. The astronaut will then place the samples in hermeticallysealed containers. Geologists would highly recommend that a percentage ofthe sample be kept refrigerated at Marslike temperatures to prevent thesoil sample to change on the way back to earth. The astronauts rover wouldstop every few hundred feet and soil samples would be tested automatically. Drilling around the planet would be carried out on a regular basis.
This would be one of the astronauts most vigorous activities. The rover ofthe astronaut will carry electrical powered drills and a supply ofaluminium tube sections. The drill will be similar to jack-hammers used inconstruction on Earth. The drill will be powered by a compressor usingMars’ carbon dioxide atmosphere.
Mars’ internal structure will be better understood when scientistsfind out the rate of heat flow from the interior. A method of doing thisis by thermometers which would be placed at different depths of Mars. Little heaters would be positioned near thermometers which would reveal howheat flows through the material that makes up the surface layers. Most probably on a trip to Mars there will be complicated apparatus’for extensive analyses of soil. An electron scanning microscope wouldprobably be used to look for any tiny fossils and aid in hopes ofdistinguish any minerals.
An X-ray fluorescence spectrometer will be usedto record the X-rays emitted by materials when they are irradiated by aradioactive source which will discover the materials present. There alsowill be a combined gas chromatography and a mass spectrometer which willseparate and measure the gases that is driven off when a sample is heatedWhen humans and rovers finally get to the poles, their top prioritywill be to get samples of the core which will be taken from the layers ofdeposits of ice and dust (which is millions of years old). This wouldprobably have a record of how the climate has changed over hundreds ofmillion of years. There are numerous fascinating surface structures of Mars and whenexplorers do go to Mars it will be interesting to see what information theybring back about the places that have already been identified and thethings and places that remain a mystery to us. These places include thevolcanoes, the north and south poles of Mars, the equatorial canyons, theunique craters, basins etc. All these places when studied will help us geta better understanding of the planet which has amazed us from pictures thatwere taken from non manned missions.
The volcanoes on the planet are the most startling features of Mars. There are many volcanoes on Mars but the most sensational is found near theequatorial region of Tharsis. On the planet, volcanoes have been aroundmuch of the planet’s history. The general shape hints that eruptions offluid lava has very small amounts of ash in it. The chemical compositionof the terrestrial volcanoes on the planet shows that lava and the rate atwhich the volcanoes erupted affected the volcanoes’s final structure.
The craters of Mars have a huge ranges from little as a several metersacross to huge broad basins which are up to hundreds of kilometres indiameter. The southern hemisphere contains hardly any craters which isvisible but in the northern hemisphere there an abundant amount of craters. There are about sixteen basins on Mars each one larger than0 twohundred and fifty kilometres in diameter somewhere on the surface of Mars. Each basin appears to be vast and multi-ringed. Some basins are fairly newbut the others are significantly old which look considerable erodedThere are many striking features of Mars but we must understand thedilemma that is on Mars about the water. There are many things on thesurface of Mars that look like water channels.
Many years ago scientiststhought that these channels were made by erosion, by lava, or the windmight have made these channels but this no longer holds true today. Scientists know that water did once exist in huge quantities by the visiblechannels of Mars. We have found out that water did once exist on Mars but where has itall gone? Unfavourable scientists can only take a guess by what is knowabout the planet and then estimate at how much water Mars once had, howmuch of the water escaped on the surface and how much of it is hidden tothe naked eye. The amount of water that is on Mars is negligible.
The polar caps ofMars contain some water but they are mixed with frozen carbon dioxide anddust so the quantity of water is not known. The permafrost underground isanother water supply. The colder the conditions of Mars then the morechance of finding permafrost under the surface of Mars. There areestimates that at the poles the permafrost is well up to eight kilometresthick and lie just a few centimetres below the surface. Near the equatorthe permafrost is estimated to be up to, two to three kilometres thick andjust a few metres deep.
When a trip to Mars takes place and in the near future it will manyscientist, researchers and the people will be excited to learn what theplanet is like. There are many fascinating things on Mars that stillremain a mystery today and a manned mission to Mars will help us unravelthese mysteries. BIBLIOGRAPHYAsimov, Isaac. MARS, The Red Planet. New York: Lothrop, Lee and ShepardCompany. 1977Asimov, Isaac.
MARS: Our Mysterious Neighbor. Milwaukee: Gareth Stevenspublishing. 1988Simon, Seymour. MARS.
New York: William Morrow and Company. 1987Frank Miles and Nicholas Booth. Race to Mars. New York: Harperand Row publishers.