The number of missions, who is launching them and their complexity illustrate the importance Mars has for purveyors of space exploration policy.
Why are so many missions being sent to Mars in a single month? The answer is different for each player.
NASA’s primary mandate since its beginning has been to explore space. The space agency has been sending robot probes to Mars since the Mariner 4 in the mid-1960s. NASA also has a renewed mandate to send astronauts beyond low Earth orbit to Mars as well as other destinations. Each robotic probe that flies by, orbits or lands on Mars is a prelude to the day when Americans step out of the Mars lander and tread the face of a second alien world. The human expedition to Mars, which will stop by the moon to top off rocket fuel created by lunar water, will be a singular, historic event of this century, dwarfing the Apollo moon landing.
China is mounting an expedition to Mars to enhance its status as a major space power. Beijing envisions its space program, which includes a planned crewed space station and several robotic expeditions to the moon leading to a crewed landing, as a means to define itself as a superpower, first as a peer of the United States, but in the long term to supplant America.
The UAE, conscious that oil and gas are beginning to lose their appeal, has embarked on creating a high-tech economy. The Hope mission, the first of its kind by any Arab nation, is part of that strategy.
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