MARS: THE JOURNEY THUS FAR

*Mariner 3 (together with Mariner 4 known as NASA’s Mariner-Mars 1964) was one of two identical deep-space probes designed and built by JPL. Mariner 4 was the fourth in a series of spacecraft, launched on November 28, 1964. It sent back the first pictures of the Martian surface. 

*Mars 3 was an unmanned space probe of the Soviet Mars programme spanning between 1960 and 1973. Mars 3 was launched nine days after its twin spacecraft Mars 2 and completed its mission by August 22, 1972. Mars 2 crash-landed on the red planet.  

*Mariner 9, a NASA space orbiter, was launched on May 30, 1971 becoming the first spacecraft to orbit another planet, beating Soviet Mars 2 and Mars 3, which both arrived within a month. 

*Mars 4, 5, 6, 7 were the USSR’s attempt to beat the USA to a successful soft landing on Mars in 1973. The missions failed, but Mars 4, 5, and 6 all performed radio occultation experiments of the planet’s atmosphere. 

*Viking 1 and 2 were launched one after the other. The first spacecraft was launched on August 20, 1975 and the next one was launched on September 9. Data from these missions changed our understanding of the Martian surface. 

*Phobos 1 and 2 were part of the then Soviet Union’s unmanned space programme.   Phobos 1 was launched on July 7, 1988, and Phobos 2 on July 12, 1988. The first suffered a failure en route and the second sent back 38 images, but contact was lost.

*The Mars Observer was launched by NASA in September 1992, but was lost. The Mars Global Surveyor was launched in 1999 and was in orbit for nine years and 52 days, longer than any other mission till then. Mars 96 was a failed mission launched in 1996 by the Russian Space Forces. Mars Pathfinder was launched on December 4, 1996 by NASA and landed on July 4, 1997. It returned more than 16,500 images from the lander and 550 images from the rover.

*The NOZOMI (Planet-B), the first Japanese Mars orbiter was launched on July 4, 1998. The Mars Climate Orbiter was launched by NASA on December 11, 1998. On September 23, 1999, communication with the spacecraft was lost.

*The Mars Polar Lander, a robotic spacecraft lander, was launched by NASA on January 3, 1999. Deep Space 2 was launched in January 1999, and was declared a failure in the year 2000.  *Mars Space Odyssey was launched in April, 2001. NASA has approved a fourth two-year extended mission, through August 2012, to facilitate the observation of polar ice, clouds, and dust storms, as well as a sensitive mapping of Martian minerals.  

*Mars Express was launched by ESA on June 2, 2003. It has been given an extension till 2014. Spirit, MER-A (Mars Exploration Rover – A), was active from 2004 to 2010. It was one of two rovers of NASA's ongoing Mars Exploration Rover Mission. It landed successfully on Mars on January 4, 2004, three weeks before Opportunity (MER-B), landed on the other side of the planet. The rover’s last communication with earth was sent on March 22, 2010. The rover, Curiosity, which landed on Mars recently is much bigger than both Spirit and Opportunity. 

*The Mars Reconnaisance Orbiter was launched August 12, 2005, and gained Martian orbit on March 10, 2006. Phobos Grunt was launched by the Russian Federal Space Agency on November 9, 2011. The mission was declared a failure. Yinghuo 1 was a Chinese space exploration mission, also launched in November, 2011. It was declared lost soon after.

*Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) is a robotic space probe mission to Mars launched by NASA on November 26, 2011, which successfully landed Curiosity, a Mars rover, in Gale Crater on August 6, 2012. This probe will determine whether Mars supports life. 

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