The summer of 2020 was supposed to witness multiple space launches all the way to Red planet, which we desis love to regard as the ‘Mangal’ (literally meaning auspicious). And unlike everything that the COVID-19 has placed a brake on this year, most Mars missions are continuing to accelerate at their designated pace, and schedules.

A total of four space missions were supposed to get launched to Mars inn 2020, which includes three rovers from various space agencies all over the world.

Last week China launched its Tianwen-1 (carrying a rover) and United Arab Emirates launched its Hope Probe from Japan's Tanegashima Space Centre (TNSC). On Thursday, 30th July, NASA is scheduled to launch its Perseverance rover. However, the Mars mission of European Space Agency in collaboration with Russian space agency ROSCOSMOS had to be postponed due to Coronavirus pandemic.

How 2020 becomes so important for Martian space missions?

For comparison, the global favourite space exploration spot of 2000s – the Moon – had just six missions in total between 2000 and 2009. The obvious technological advancement ever since has its due role to play, along with some encouraging life-supporting evidences which the previous Mars missions have collected. But the reason goes much deeper than that which is pushing Space Agencies to launch their missions specifically in the summer of 2020.

The precise moment to fly from Earth to Mars comes every 26 months. This is because the planets do not move in circular orbits, they are more elliptical or oval shaped. And also, since the Martian neighbour (Jupiter’s gaseous composition) continues to affect the shape of Martian orbit, a near-perfect alignment becomes all the more important.

This perfect alignment comes every 26 months, when Mars and Earth happen to be on the same side of the sun and are closer than usual. Since Mars is closer to Earth during this time, it means fuel needs to be put on the spacecraft, drastically reducing the rare resources that Space Missions are supposed to employ for such probes. According to NASA, this launch window every 26 months last less than a month. For example, all four space missions mentioned above had their initial launch schedules between 20th July and 15th August. The currently postponed European Space Agency-ROSCOSMOS’s Mars mission will now take off from Earth between August-October, 2022, when the next such launch window will come, CNN reported.

According to NASA, Mars will make its closest approach to Earth in October this year, at only 38.6 million miles from Earth, the greatest distance between Earth and Mars can reach as many as 249 million miles.

India’s Mars Mission

Seven years after its launch, ISRO’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), also called ‘Mangalyaan’, continues to be active. Interestingly, it was initially estimated to be active for just six months, but has survived more than two Martian years by smashing all skeptical anticipations.

Earlier this month, Mangalyaan captured the images of Phobos, the biggest Moon of Mars.

A follow-up mission ‘Mangalyaan-2’ remains in development, and is scheduled to be launched in 2024, which, according to ISRO, will reportedly have a greater scientific payload for more proficient exploration of the ‘Auspicious’ planet.

Posted By: Abhinav Gupta