TRAVELING INTO THE UNKNOWN
Missions to Mars
space scientists refer a ‘Mars Demon’, an imaginary force which sabotages
spacecrafts designed to go to the Red Planet!
In reality there are no demons. Being one of Earth’s closest planetary neighbors, and possibly the most similar physically, Mars still is in fact a hard place to get to.
have been almost forty attempted missions to Mars – with more than half ending
in failure. The spacecrafts that have worked have discovered a world of wonder
with exciting similarities and unusual differences to Earth.
The first successful mission to Mars was the Mariner 4, launched by NASA on 28 November 1964. It passed within 9000 kilometers of Mars and on July 14, 1965, it returned 22 pictures as planned, the first close-up photographs of another planet including Mars.
pictures, played back from a small tape recorder over a long period, showed
lunar impact craters, and proved wrong of the long-held myth of canals (really
miss translated) and lost civilizations on Mars.
The first spacecraft to orbit Mars was the Soviet Union’s Mars 2 in 1971. Its sister ship, Mars 3, also orbited Mars and dropped a Lander successfully onto the surface. It worked for 20 seconds and then destroyed by a Martian dust storm as so what experts say.
first NASA orbiter also circled Mars in the same year. The orbiter was not named.
space missions that put Mars exploration on the map, though, were unquestionably
the two Viking missions of the mid 1970s. Both using an orbiter and a Lander,
with the Landers returning the first detailed pictures from the Martian surface. The
Viking Landers found a desert-like landscape that, in temperature, was actually
more like the tundra of Earth. The orbiters mapped 97% of the planet.
Further Martian exploration then became less successful for over two decades, by
nothing but a few failed or partially successful attempts. The Soviet Phobos 1
orbiter/Lander was lost route to Mars in 1989, and Phobos 2 was also lost in
the same year near the Martian moon Phobos. The US Mars Observer was lost just
before arrival to Mars in 1993.
Mars Global Surveyor became the first successful mission to the Red Planet in twenty years when it was launched in 1996, entering orbit in 1997.
In the same year, NASA’s ‘faster, cheaper, better’ policy delivered Mars Pathfinder to the surface of the Red Planet. The tiny rover, Sojourner, roamed the surface for many weeks, analyzing rocks and capturing the mind's eye of the general public.
Unfortunately that did not prove to be the beginning of a glorious rebirth and
the ‘Mars Demon’ struck again, as the next four missions were severely damaged
or otherwise useless.
The Russian Mars ’96 orbiter and landers, carrying several European experiments, were lost in launch vehicle accident in 1996. The US Mars Climate Orbiter was lost on arrival at Mars in 1999. The US Mars Polar Lander/Deep Space 2 probes were also lost on arrival in 1999.
However, in 2001, the US Mars Odyssey successfully arrived in orbit carrying science experiments designed to make global observations of Mars, and this spacecraft also served as a communications relay for US and European spacecraft arriving at Mars in 2003 and 2004.
The year 2003, however, saw a resumed interest in Mars with a increase of Mars missions: ESA launched Mars Express with its Beagle Lander, and NASA sent two rovers named Spirit and Opportunity. The Japanese Nozomi spacecraft was due to arrive in early 2004 but suffered a break down and, after brave attempts by the mission team to recover the spacecraft, it was lost.
December 25, 2003, ESA's Mars Express successfully arrived in orbit around Mars.
In early January, the Beagle 2 Lander had not yet signaled its safe landing, but
mission teams are still working to make contact. On January 4, 2004, the first
of NASA's rovers, Spirit, touched down on the surface of Mars. These
missions will continue to send useful data about the soil and atmosphere of a
planet that may have sustained life. Could humans hope to someday live on
Mars? With each mission to Mars we come closer to an answer of life on
Looking for Water and Life throughout the Universe
Missions to Mars
Mars Probes and Rovers Quiz
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