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Mars - Missions to Mars

There has been a large number of probes sent to Mars. The three most important:

have provided much of what we know of Mars, and will be discussed in their own sections.

In addition, you may want to check out AeroSpaceGuide. This site has some interesting facts as well as mission summaries.

Past Missions:

We have sent most of our probes to Mars, the first of which was Mariner 4. The first close-up images of Mars are from the Mariner 4. Launched in November of 1964, the Mariner 4 flew past Mars in July of 1965. It was a flyby mission and never entered orbit.

Mariners 6 and 7 were also flyby missions, launched only 31 days apart. Launched in early 1969, the flybys later that year provided more close-up images and also studies the chemical composition of the atmosphere.

Mariner 9 was the first Mars orbiter and covered over 80% by taking over 7,000 images. Weather patterns on Mars were discovered by this probe and both moons of Mars were also photographed for the first time.

17 years after the Viking series, the Mars Observer was sent to Mars but failed due to severe electronics failure.

Despite the concerns over the loss of the Mars Observer, the Mars Pathfinder mission, launched in 1996, was a complete success. This probe is a free moving rover, called Sojourner, to move about the surface while transmitting information through its home base back to Earth. The results of this probe can be found at the Mars Pathfinder Science Results Directory.

Present Missions:

There are several probes still in operation in and around Mars, including the Mars Global Surveyor and the two Mars Exploration Rovers. The Mars 2001 Odyssey probe is still gathering data. Additionally, the Mars Express is also still gathering data - even though its lander, the Beagle 2 failed.

The Future:

There are six proposed missions to Mars, beginning later this year:

The Failed Missions:

Not all missions to Mars were a resounding success. There were several failures:

  • Japan's Nozomi probe, launched in 1998, failed en route
  • NASA's Mars Climate Orbiter, launched in 1998, entered orbit but probably entered to close and burned up
  • The Mars Polar Lander, launched in 1999, landed on Mars but never transmitted
  • The Deep Space 2 probe carried the Mars Polar Lander, but failed to enter orbit and crashed on Mars
  • The Beagle 2, launched in 2003, landed on Mars but never sent a signal

Regardless of these failures, continued exploration of Mars (and every other planet of our Solar System) must continue! Our understanding of our Solar System and evolution of humans depends on it.

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