23 Nov

Exploration of Red Planet

Mars or popularly called the red planet has intrigued mankind for decades. The planet is fourth from the Sun. It is second smallest after Mercury. There have been widespread speculations about possible life in Mars or the ability to support life among generations of scientists and this led to the conceiving and development of missions to explore Mars in the 20th century.

The detailed technical study and the feasibility of a Mars Mission were first explored by Werner von Braun in a series of articles beginning in 1952. He envisaged three stage vehicles numbering almost thousand launched from the Earth to carry parts for the Mars Mission to the Space Station in the Earth orbit. The number of astronauts was planned to be 70 using ten spacecrafts. The concept of Mars exploration was picked up with alacrity by U.S.A. Three industrial behemoths Aeronutronic Ford, General Dynamics and the Lockheed Missiles and Space Company in 1962 made a detailed analysis of Mars Mission as a part of NASA project called EMPIRE. The studies proposed that the mission could be undertaken by using eight Saturn five boosters to launch the space craft and assembly in low Earth orbit. The Apollo Program of the NASA met with tremendous success prompting the advocacy of a manned Mars Mission by Werner von Braun using the Saturn five boosters to launch a six man crew. The manned mission proposal however did not fructify and the NASA decided to go ahead with an unmanned craft.

The Soviets on the other hand sent many Mars probes with some success including the Mars atmospheric entry. The Martian Piloted Complex proposal to send a manned mission to Mars using N-1 rockets but the setbacks suffered by them shelved such plans. Heavy Interplanetary Spacecraft due to be launched in 1971 proposed to do a Mars-fly by and drop probes. The N-1 rockets required never flew thus bringing the curtains on this project.