Mankind has been staring at Mars for centuries, dreaming what might lie on its powdery orange surface. As our telescopes have improved, so does our image on the Red Planet, although the scientists' interpretation of these growing details was not always accurate (see: Mars Channels). The first mission to be able to see Mars in the close-up, Mariner 4, was broadcasting a handful of grim views of the crater at home, but the missions that followed – those who succeeded; the total failure rate is upwards of 50% for a Mars spacecraft – draws a clearer picture of the dusty boulder gift on the planet.
Recently, scientists have found evidence of a warmer, more humane ancient past for the planet that could host Earth-like life, so the search for life continues, though it now extends to the past. And the planet has less stirring of Tectonic motion material than the Earth so its makeup can tell scientists about the formation of the solar system.
NASA's InSight Mars mission, which will appear on Monday (November 26th), will dive deeper under the surface of the planet from each mission in front of it, familiarizing itself with the interior of the planet. InSight is a smaller mission than many of the rovers and orbits that precede it, but it is the latest in a long line of robotic emissaries to look at our planetary neighbor. [Missions to Mars: A Robot Red Planet Invasion History (Infographic)]
"Mars is an amazing natural laboratory right next to Earth," said Lorry Glaze, acting director of NASA's Planetary Science Division at an InSight briefing briefing on Nov. 21. "We really want to understand how we have taken care of the variety of rocky planets in our solar system – they are all very different, each of them is unique in its own way and trying to understand how they have become so different is really important question.
Besides – despite the failure – the planet is relatively easy to land and is less likely to melt our equipment from Venus or Mercury.
Mars's geology provides much evidence of the past water, Glaze added, "potentially could be a place where life could be formed very early in the history of Mars." And of course, trying to understand how life is or is has been distributed in our solar system is one of the main issues we have. "
Time capsule on the early planets …
Earth, Mars, and other rocky planets in our solar system dipped together from a dusty disk around the young sun, which became hotter and hotter as the material was added and melted into bodies with various cuffs and hearts. We still do not know much about this early time in the history of the planets.
"On Mars this structure has been preserved over the last 4.5 billion years, whereas on Earth, where we can actually study it quite easily, this structure has been suggested by both the tectonic plate and the mantle convection, the earliest processes being wiped out on the Earth, "said Bruce Banner, chief investigator of the InSight Mission and a researcher at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.
So, just as we study comets – the remnants of this process of formation – tells researchers about the earliest days of the solar system, exploring the structure of Mars by measuring the temperature of the planet, and marches can tell scientists about the next step in the planetary evolution.
And knowing more about current Mars conditions can also help researchers understand what they may have been in the past. [Why We’re Obsessed with Mars]
… and early Earth
"Mars is a very unique place in our solar system because it is one of the few other planets that we think has ever really been Earth-like," says Bruni Horgan, a planetary scientist at Purdu University who focuses on the geological moon history and mars, Space.com said. "Today is this cold, inappropriate place with a very thin atmosphere … low pressure, the whole radiation that bathes the surface But when we look at the geological record of Mars, we see huge amounts of things like dredged river canals, dry deltas on the lake and lakes, minerals of the entire planet that can only form in the presence of water. " [Water on Mars: Curiosity Rover Uncovers a Flood of Evidence]
3 or 4 billion years ago Mars may have looked very similar to the early Earth, said Horgan, and while on the erosion of our planet, plate tectonics and other processes have passed rocks dating back to that time, Mars offers yet another chance to see them .
"Mars' geology has just been so less active on the Earth scale that rocks 4 billion years ago just sat on the surface," said Horgan. "They have not been cut, they have not been buried, they have not eroded – they just sit there, actually wait to look at them and try to find out what these ancient ones are, 4 billion may have looked like environment and life. "
Horgan is a scientist on the upcoming NASA mission for rovers whose site was announced by the agency on November 19th. Mars 2020 moves in the footsteps of the 1976 Viking twins who landed on the Red Planet to seek life, according to scientists, "the best understanding of the planet's conditions and Curiosity," which is approaching 2012, to investigate past habitation on Mars.
As our views on the planet are evolving, our search tool for life has also been told by Horgan – once Spirit and Opportunity spirits have provided evidence of past water, Curiosity has brought a vast array of scientific tools to try to find organic or other evidence of habitation near these ancient waterbeds. Mars 2020 will be based on Curiosity's ongoing work, bringing even finer tools for analysis, such as organic images in the rocks, looking for microfilms or textures that suggest ancient biology. Scientists still do not know whether running water has often been on the surface, or it may have been mostly frozen with occasional melts due to volcanic activity.
"Some of the 2020 tools will really take away the finer details of the rocks, the kinds of things we can not see with the tools we currently have, and the cache samples that eventually if the Earth is returned we can "John Grant, a geologist at the Smithsonian Institution, who has been on the Spirit and Opportunity Research, Curiosity, and Martian Intelligence Orbiter, has provided a long-term fundamental information. He also heads the landing process of Mars 2020.
"InSight is a very important part of this because none of them [NASA’s previous missions] indeed – the meaning of the word – to scratch under the surface in terms of planetary evolution and to understand how the planet evolves over time, "Grant added.
"If we know something about its internal structure and evolution, we can say something about how long it has been active, whether or how active it is today, and all of them have consequences for changing conditions … as related to things like habitation, and whether there was a past life, "he told Space.com. So, although InSight is not directly related to Mars life, "it's all intertwined," he added.
And, of course, with NASA's plans to eventually send people to Mars, everything we learn will help us prepare for that moment.
"Yes, we are returning to the moon, but we are also on our way to Mars and science [helps] that they understand the resources and that we understand the living conditions and understand what needs to be explored there, "said Thomas Zurbuheen, an associate administrator of the NASA Science Directorate at the Mars 2020 site.
"That is, I would say, an additional argument about why Mars is so exciting for us," he added. "We will not go to any other place earlier on our earthly planets for everything obviously Mars is the really obvious place behind the moon to come back and expand our presence in a deeper and deeper space."
Why do we continue on Mars? To learn more about our solar system, learn about the early Earth, look for life and just learn about your neighbor before you visit.
"Science makes us understand and allows us to get people into place like Mars," Glaze said during the briefing. "The more research we have, the better we understand this environment, the better we will be to send people to Mars in the future."