We Are The New Martians.

by Daniel Russ on March 28, 2013

Mariner 4 flyby photo 1965

 

Mariner 4 flyby photo 1965

 

No heavenly body in our solar system has entranced us like the Red Planet Mars. From the time that Giavanni Schiaparelli saw canals on Mars through his primitive telescope, to today, we are drawn ineluctably to the romance of this place. That said, here are some interesting statistics on the number of attempts to reach her.

 

There have been 50 launches since October 10th, 1960, in an attempt to fly by Mars, orbit it, or land on it, or drive around on the surface; or land on Phobos, one of its natural satellites. These launches have come from Russia, The United States, China, Japan, and the ESA.

 

Phoenix Lander

 

Phoenix Lander

 

The first attempts were simply flybys where the satellite races by the planet close enough to photograph it and sends the signal back for confirmation. Then there were attempts to put objects on the planet surface and send back photographic and signal proof of the landing. And there have been attempts to put roving laboratories on the surface just to perform scientific experimentation. In all there have been 11 flyby missions, and 5 were successful. There have been 22 orbiters 9 successfully entered Martian orbit. There were 10 lander missions and only three successfully settled. Of the 7 rover missions 4 were successful. One ESA mission was to bring material back from Phobos, and it failed.

 

Viking Lander Photos 1975

 

Viking Lander Photos 1975

 

Currently, there are 4 derelict satellites orbiting Mars. The Viking Orbiter, Phobos 2, Mariner 9 and the Mars Observer. There are 3 operating artificial satellites: The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, The Mars Express and the 2001 Mars Odyssey. There are 17 man made machines on the surface of Mars. The first was the Soviet Mars 2 that crashed on the surface on November 21st, 1971. The latest is the Curiosity Rover, launched on November 26th 2011 and landed on August 6th, 2012. It is a smashing success, a lab about the size of a Volkswagen that is performing very complex atmospheric, geological and biological tests in a mobile robot laboratory.

 

The Viking 1 and Viking 2 were Orbiter/Lander paired machines: a lander to take photos, to test the soil and send back data; and a cartographic orbiter. Both worked very well.

 

It’s interesting to note that the Opportunity and Free Spirit Rovers both lived long past their life cycles. Spirit was caught in a sand trap and went silent from a solar panel occluded by sand.  You think YOU have an interesting  job. Well, you don’t drive  laboratory on another planet.

 

 

Curiosity Rover Self Portrait

 

Curiosity Rover Self Portrait

Source: Wiki, NASA

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