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Mars is often touted as a plan B planet, one that could have the potential to sustain life if things here on Earth get too bad. But how realistic is that and how close are we really to colonizing the Red Planet?
RELATED: MAKING MARS HABITABLE: RESEARCHERS PROPOSE A LOCALIZED ALTERNATIVE TO TERRAFORMING
Here are four missions that are heading to Mars in 2020 and beyond in the hopes of exploring its potential hospitability.
1. ExoMars by the ESA and Roscosmos
"The ExoMars program comprises two missions: the first – the Trace Gas Orbiter – launched in 2016 while the second, comprising a rover and surface platform, is planned for 2020. Together they will address the question of whether life has ever existed on Mars," reads ExoMars' mission on its webpage.
The European Space Agency (ESA) and Roscosmos have joined forces for this mission to send their own rover to Mars. The mission will mark a record in how deep the rover will dig (two meters) looking for life inside the Red Planet's surface.
2. China's Huoxing-1 mission
Also known as the Mars Global Remote Sensing Orbiter and Small Rover, China's Huoxing-1 mission is planned to be launched in July or August 2020 with a Long March 5 heavy-lift rocket. It will feature an orbiter which will circle the Red Planet to drop a lander with a rover.
Its aim is to look for both signs of current and past life.
3. The UAE's Hope Mars Mission
Also called the Emirates Mars Mission, this mission is funded by the United Arab Emirates. The probe is currently being built by the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre, the University of Colorado and Arizona State University and will be set for launch in 2020.
Its aim is to study and analyze the Red Planet's climate through seasonal cycles and the weather on Mars' different geographic areas. It will seek to answer the question of why Mars' atmosphere is losing hydrogen and oxygen into space and explore the reasons behind Mars' drastic climate changes.
4. NASA's Mars 2020 mission
Perhaps the most famous of them all, this mission is mostly known for the helicopter that the Mars 2020 rover will come equipped with. The chopper took flight for the first time 9 months ago and is looking to be a very promising addition to the project.
The mission also saw NASA offer to send people's names to Mars, an interesting endeavor. The rover, this time around, will seek to see if there are methods of using Mars' current resources to support future colonization efforts.