Space Race: Mars 2020 Rover Will Seek Signs of Ancient Life

The race is on between US, China and Russia to become a space superpower by 2030; Beijing is expected to launch its first-ever Martian probe any day from now

When Perseverance touches down on Mars early next year, the rover and its many instruments will start to probe for evidence of what the Red Planet was like billions of years ago with one eye focused on the future.

And in searching for the remnants of Martian environs that once proved friendly to microorganisms — and for the chemical signatures of ancient Martian organisms — researchers hope to gain insights into how NASA can support a human mission.

“The more we know about Mars, the better prepared we are to send humans there and get them home safely,” Ken Williford, deputy project scientist for the Mars 2020 mission, told UPI.

The mission is scheduled to launch July 30 from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The touchdown will be in February 2021.

Possibility of life

The possibility of alien life on Mars has long captured the attention of the public.

“I think we have successfully gotten the word out that we plan to seek the signs of ancient life,” Williford said. “I think this is the first mission since Viking to focus so directly and seriously on the search for extraterrestrial life.

Meanwhile, China unveiled its Mars rover Tianwen-1 at a grand ceremony on Wednesday.

Beijing’s landmark space probe is scheduled to take off any time between July and August – depending on the weather conditions – and expected to reach Mars in February next year.

The just over six feet space craft will search for signs of life on the red planet.

Last November, China successfully conducted a test landing of the rover.

A month later, China conducted a successful test flight of an early version of the Long March-5 rocket.

In 2003, it became the third country to put a man in space with its own rocket after the former Soviet Union and the United States.

Since then, China has been racing to catch up with Russia and the United States and become a major space power by 2030. 

In January last year, a Chinese lunar explorer became the first-ever spacecraft to touch down on the dark side of the moon. 

Its lunar rover, Yutu-2, transmitted never-before-seen ‘close range’ images back to its engineers after making the historic landing. 

China is said to be racing Russia and the US to become a space superpower by 2030.