Mars set for visits from UAE, China and U.S. spacecraft | Daily News

Mars set for visits from UAE, China and U.S. spacecraft

Three spacecraft carrying the ambitions and anxieties of three different countries' space agencies are set to arrive at Mars this month, beginning what scientists hope could be a new wave of exploration of the red planet.

The flurry of activity began Tuesday, as the United Arab Emirates’ Hope probe entered into orbit around Mars, making the UAE only the fifth nation or entity to achieve such a feat. Less than 24 hours later, an orbiter and rover launched by China’s space agency are expected to arrive at the red planet. And NASA’s Perseverance rover, a much-anticipated follow-up act to the Curiosity rover, will attempt to touch down on the Martian surface Feb. 18.

The events not only mark a busy month for Mars, but also highlight how much the field of space exploration long dominated by the United States and Russia is evolving.

“It’s almost like the Olympics, in that this is competitive but inspires good feelings,” said Robert Zubrin, author of “The Case for Mars” and founder of The Mars Society, a nonprofit organization that advocates for human exploration of the red planet.

NASA’s history of robotic Mars exploration extends back more than 50 years, but both the UAE and China are attempting to pull off major milestones on their first missions to the red planet. With the Hope probe's successful maneuver on Tuesday, the UAE became the fifth nation or entity to successfully put a spacecraft in orbit around Mars. China is also vying to join those exclusive ranks, currently held by the U.S., the former Soviet Union, the European Space Agency and India. (NBC)