Intergalactic traffic jams as China, America and the UAE all launch missions to Mars over coming weeks

OUTER space is poised for an interplanetary traffic jam as three rival missions leave Earth to explore Mars.

The Red Planet is the destination for a trio of scientific explorations after a rare "launch window" opened up.

The US, China and the UAE will this month all send probes on a new quest to discover whether there has ever been life on Mars.

The Sunday Times reports how they hope to take advantage of the fact our planet will move within "just" 38 million miles of our planetary neighbour in October.

That will mean the journey will take just six or seven months rather than than up to the usual nine.

The first to launch should be the Hope probe of the United Arab Emirates.

Also known as the Emirates Mars Mission it is scheduled to launch on Tuesday.

The Hope orbiter will reach Mars in early 2021, to study the Red Planet's atmosphere, weather and climate from above. 

Last year, Hazza al-Mansouri, 36, spent eight days on the International Space Station.

When he returned to the UAE he became a national hero and since the nation has been space mad.

China will follow with a long-awaited launch of its own just over a week after Hope is scheduled to launch.

Tianwen-1 is primed to lift off being carried on a Long March 5 rocket.

It will conduct a broad reconnaissance of the Martian environment. 

It is equipped with a high-resolution camera and a mineral spectrometer to allow mission members to determine the composition of surface rocks. 

Its rover also has carries a weather station, a magnetic field detector and a ground-penetrating radar.

If Tianwen-1 is successful, China will become just the third nation, after the Soviet Union and the United States, to land on Mars.

Last to take off will be the US's Perserverance mission.

It is scheduled to lift off aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on July 30.

If all goes to plan it will land inside Mars's Jezero crater mid February 2021.

Its mission is to search for signs of ancient life in the rocks of the 28-mile-wide crater

The Red Planet is the focus of the missions as there is evidence of water in the past- hinting it could have once sustained life.

There have been 56 missions to Mars since the 1960s – less than half have been successful.

“It’s the only planet where we’ve been able to detect past signs of [the possibility of] life, and the more we learn about it, the more hope there is,” said Michel Viso, an astrobiologist at CNES, France’s space agency.

“It feels like something exciting is happening.”

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