from behind onwards color, This time to stay there, until landing Mars. The path of the new space race has already been set, and according to the vision predicted by SpaceX’s number one, Elon Musk will come to make human Ocean multiplanetaria.
But if in the past space conquests were marked by the rivalry of opposing great powers, this is no longer the case today. For some time now, open a new era of space exploration under the banner cooperation. Between different countries, but also between space agencies, research institutes and private companies. This will be the case for the moon, with the international Artemis program representing future lunar missions. And even more so for Mars.
«Scientific and industrial objectives – comment Rafael Mugnolo, Head of ASI’s Scientific Satellite and Robotic Exploration Unit – they are now more integrated than ever. Mars missions have always been designed with the intention of addressing two basic questions. Was there life on Mars? And is it possible to make the Red Planet a habitable world (again)? To respond, we need a joint effort from several countries and the scientific and industrial community.”
Searching for traces of past and present life on the Red Planet is the goal of the current champion of robotic exploration of Mars, the latest generation of rovers perseverance. And speaking of international cooperation, the NASA robot has brought a series of instruments made by different countries to the Red Planet. The Italian contribution does not diminish: perseverance has an ally Made in italy To move safely on the soil of Mars. It is located around larra(laser reflection array), a precision inverter made by INFN on behalf of ASI. A similar instrument is also installed on the InSight lander, which landed on Mars in 2018, and will fly aboard the European probe. ExoMars in 2022.
LaRa – explains Mugnuolo – will also make it possible to use techniques laser range of satellites orbiting Mars, equipped with laser guidance systems, to investigate issues such as general relativity and to investigate alternative theories proposed to describe gravitational interaction. Meanwhile, Italy pays close attention to the processes carried out by perseverance. This mission is actually the first step in the campaign Mars sample returnThe rover will collect important samples of Martian soil and place them in special containers for recovery from future missions and return them to Earth by 2030.”
This is where our country will take an active part in the new Mars race: from exercises To drill the Martian soil with the robotic arm, which is also necessary for the subsequent campaign of a sample return.
The robotic arm of the Sample Fetch Rover (the European rover that has to retrieve samples collected by Perseverance) was designed and built in Italy and will be used to collect samples left by Perseverance, as well as the robotic arm on the NASA probe: the latter will transport Mars samples from the SFR rover into Mars Ascent Vehicle, a small shuttle that will rise from the surface of Mars and launch the capsule containing the samples into orbit around Mars. Finally, the capsule with the samples will be picked up by the European ERO (Earth Return Vehicle) and returned to Earth orbit. Here, too, there will be a huge Italian contribution regarding the ERO, which is part of the Earth’s telecommunications system ».
Returning a piece of Mars to our planet will open up completely new horizons, allowing the entire global scientific community to participate in the search for traces of the past or present of life on the Red World. Thus paving the way for the future colonization Martian.
“In the meantime, we are closely following the completion stages of the ExoMars mission, which will be launched in 2022. Italy is the main contributor to this mission directed to bring the first European rover called Rosalind Franklin to the surface of Mars, equipped with equipment that will attempt to drill and take samples of Martian soil to determine Biosignatures attributable to extinct or present life forms,” continues Raffaele Mognolo, who is also responsible for the Italian participation in the ExoMars mission.
“All the extraordinary missions planned in this decade – concludes Mugnolu – represent the stages of approaching what is a common dream in the next decade: to carry out the first manned mission to Mars, to install permanent Martian bases.”
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