The Financial Express

Mars close-up great, not timing

| Updated: February 28, 2021 20:36:53

Mars close-up great, not timing

That man would one day be able to land on Mars was predicted by popular science fiction writers like Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov et al long time back. Proving their predictions true, humans took the preliminary step on February 18 in the run-up to setting foot on the Red Planet. By watching the early images of the landing of NASA's Perseverance rover on Mars the space agency's scientists had reasons to have goose bumps. Most of them at the ground station operating the project became awe-struck and speechless, as they scanned the photographs. Their instant reaction was one of utter amazement --- with tinges of unearthliness as well as triumphalism. The Perseverance probe landed in a crater. It is believed to be the dried up remnant of a lake, said to be a now-dormant habitat of microbes. NASA scientists have chosen the crater as an ideal site ripe with their primary objective: searching for fossilised traces of microbial life preserved in sediments. They may have been deposited around the lake that once existed there. That the planet Mars once played host to living organisms has long been a scientifically established theory. Earlier NASA probes cited marks of water that trickled down hill slopes as proof of the existence of a Mars climate congenial to thriving of life-forms. Moreover, the signs of large water bodies beneath the planet's surface pointed to a possible condition ideal for the growth of microbes. Perhaps taking cue from these instances, scores of sci-fi movies on creatures from Mars were made in the later part of the last century. These fictional products were made on mere conjectures and unsubstantiated conclusions.

Be that as it may, the successful landing of the Perseverance Mars rover has been hailed by scientists as a watershed in the recent planetary explorations. Keeping in perspective all the past missions to Mars, a great number of which failing miserably, the latest placement of the Perseverance rover on its assignment could be recognised as a key to the opening of the long expected Mars 'riddle'. Given the inquisitive scientists' fascination for Mars, later transformed into many space probes, the Red Planet seems to hold a treasure of scientific wonders. Quite expectantly, NASA is set to lead the future expeditions. The queue is getting longer. Russia, the pioneer of space missions, has lately turned to different spheres of space-related endeavours. The new entrants in the area are China, Canada, Australia and UAE. India joined the race with its Mars Orbiter Mission; its space probe 'Mangalyaan' orbiting the planet since September 24, 2014.

Many futurist fiction writers were fortunate enough to be alive to see the event of moon landing by Apollo 11. Their predecessors could witness only the project's paper-work and man's final preparations for sending a manned space mission to moon. Man finally conquered the fabled moon in 1969. It was implied that the earthlings would not take rest from its multiple endeavours to reach Mars. Amid the nonstop researches on the planet and experimental probe missions directed at it, man kept stuck to its goal: landing on Mars some day. Naturally, following the lunar conquest the US and its space agency NASA have dominated the Mars mission scenario since the beginning. They deserve the credit for their unwavering stance on reaching the planet. With NASA's great leap forward by becoming successful in making a state-of-the-art rover land on Mars, the US has carved the place of the most deserving contender in the Mars conquest.

Scientific communities could be divided once again. Many might question the timing of the Mars feat celebrations. When a deadly pandemic continues raging through the world, science had better focus on ways to wipe pandemics off the face of the earth.

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