We’re going to the red planet! All the past, present, and future missions to Mars

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Planned Missions

Thanks to a launch window when Mars is closer to the Earth, enabling shorter trips, and a bit of coincidence, there are quite a few Mars mission launches scheduled for summer 2020. The ones on this list are by no means the only ones. There are no less than seven already confirmed missions through 2024, and at least a dozen more through the mid 2040s.

For the purposes of brevity, we’ll focus on the confirmed missions here in depth, but we’ll also talk about the proposed missions later on.

Hope Mars Mission, 2020


Hope is a notable mission for one big reason: It marks the first Mars probe launched by any Arab or Muslim country. Announced by Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, president of the United Arab Emirates, Hope aims to discover why the planet has lost its atmosphere. The findings are also expected to help scientists better model our own atmosphere going back some 1 million years. The UAE is currently targeting a July 2020 launch, and arrive at Mars in 2021, around the time of the UAE’s 50th Anniversary.

Mars 2020 Rover, 2020


This upcoming NASA mission aims to study Martian astrobiology in an attempt to understand what environmental conditions may have been like on Mars in the past via a Martian sample return. The objective would be to have the rover collect samples of rocks, minerals, and other materials on Mars and return them to Earth in a later mission. Launch is currently scheduled for July 17, 2020, and it is expected touch down in Jezero crater on Mars on February 18, 2021.

Rosalind Franklin, 2020


Named for English chemist and DNA pioneer Rosalind Franklin, this rover comprises one part of the joint ESA-Roscosmos ExoMars 2020 mission, which aims to search for evidence of past or present life on Mars over the course of its seven-month operation. ESA will provide the rover, while Roscosmos will supply the lander. The launch window was moved from 2018 to July 2020 due to production delays, but the Rosalind Franklin appears set to make its new launch date.

Mars Global Remote Sensing Orbiter, Lander, and Small Rover, 2020

National Space Science Center

China’s National Space Science Center is preparing an interplanetary mission to Mars that will launch in July or August 2020. The mission’s planned payload includes an orbiter, a lander, and a rover. The mission will serve as a technological demonstration of the resources and tech required for a Mars sample return mission, proposed to occur in the 2030s.

Mars Terahertz Microsatellite, 2020

30 Minute Trip Mars
NASA

To be launched as a piggyback payload with another Mars-bound mission in the July/August 2020 launch window (no partner has been announced yet), the Mars Terahertz Microsatellite is a joint venture of Japan’s National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT), and the University of Tokyo Intelligent Space Systems Laboratory (ISSL). The terahertz sensor will be sent to the surface of Mars to measure oxygen isotope ratios in the atmosphere to better understand the chemical reactions that resupply the Martian atmosphere with carbon dioxide.

Mangalyaan 2 (Mars Orbiter Mission 2), 2022

ISRO

Mangalyaan 2 is the Indian Space Research Organization’s follow-up to its initial interplanetary mission to Mars. An orbiter has been announced as the main component of the mission thus far, with a lander and rover as potential additions. The mission is currently planned for the 2021-22 launch window.

Martian Moons Exploration (MMX), 2024

Glas Thermostat
Jeremy Kaplan/Digital Trends

Japan plans to send a probe to Mars’ largest moon Phobos in 2024. It will land on Phobos, collect samples, and also observe the smaller moon Deimos and Mars’ climate during flybys of both. The probe will then send the samples back to Earth. they are expected to arrive in July 2029.

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