Ship crash on Mars? US and China talk to avoid this

Ship crash on Mars? US and China talk to avoid this
Ship crash on Mars? US and China talk to avoid this

The possible collision between spaceships on Mars caused representatives of the United States and China to meet for a conversation. Considering the disagreements between the two powers, space cooperation is an exception.

Under American law, almost all contacts between NASA and CNSA, the Chinese space agency, are banned due to fears that their space technology will be stolen by rivals, in addition to the military and secret nature of the Chinese space program. Only a few exceptions are allowed when information protection is guaranteed.

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The purpose of the conversation was to ensure the safety of the ships that countries sent to the site last year. The United Arab Emirates also launched a mission to the so-called red planet at the same time. “To ensure the safety of the missions, NASA is coordinating with the United Arab Emirates, the European Space Agency (ESA), the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and CNSA, all with spacecraft orbiting Mars, the exchange information, ”the US agency said in an official statement.

Image of ground missions on the red planet.
Credit: Nasa.

The missions on Mars are: Tianwen-1, from China; Hope, from the United Arab Emirates; and NASA’s Mars 2020, with the Perseverance rover exploring the Martian crater Jezero, 40 km in diameter and 500 m deep. This is the place most likely to find evidence of life on Mars, and Perseverance is equipped to detect it. The Curiosity rover, which NASA launched in 2011, is also in operation, only in the Gale crater.

The Chinese spacecraft that is on the red planet is composed of an orbiter that is rotating around the Planet, capturing high definition images, in addition to a landing module and a rover that should land in May, in the region called Utopia Planitia, the largest impact crater in the Solar System, with a diameter of 3,300 km. It is not prepared to collect samples or detect lives, but it will obtain information such as geological layers, salt deposits, evidence of ice and underground lakes as well as indicators of microbial biological activity.

The simplest of the three missions is Hope, a probe in orbit to study the atmosphere and capture high-resolution images of the entire disk of the planet. Three instruments are watching how the neutral atoms of hydrogen and oxygen – remnants of water that would have once been abundant at the site – escape into space. There are six more orbiters in operation: NASA’s Mars Odyssey, MAVEN and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter; Mars Express and ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, from ESA (the European space agency); and Mars Orbiter Mission, from ISRO (India). Another eight older ones from the United States and Russia who lost communication with Earth are still there as space junk.

Some orbital data has been requested from China to calculate the collision risks. The National Space Administration of China said on Wednesday (31) that it participated in a series of “meetings and working communications between January and March 2021 with NASA”, the American space agency. The objective would be to “exchange data from ephemeris to ensure the safety of the ships’ flight on Mars”.

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