NASA will attain a serious milestone on Tuesday as July four, 2017, marks 20 years of steady Mars exploration.
Each mission has helped to pave the way in which for the subsequent and has led to many scientific discoveries, together with proof that liquid water as soon as flowed on Mars.
NASA has been sending spacecraft to the Red Planet for the reason that 1960s, however there have been many gaps between missions.
The steady exploration started on July four, 1997, when NASA’s Pathfinder spacecraft landed on Mars. Since this date, there has all the time been at the very least one lively mission exploring the planet both from the bottom or from orbit.
Pathfinder remained operational for less than a bit of over three months, nevertheless it was essential to the way forward for Martian rovers.
“Without Mars Pathfinder, there could not have been Spirit and Opportunity, and without Spirit and Opportunity, there could not have been Curiosity,” Pathfinder Project Scientist Matt Golombek of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, mentioned.
Spirit and Opportunity have been the subsequent missions to discover the floor of Mars with each arriving on the planet in January of 2004.
The twin rovers explored totally different components of the planet, however each had the identical purpose of discovering proof that liquid water was as soon as current on Mars.
“Both rovers have discovered proof of historical Martian environments the place intermittently moist and liveable situations existed,” NASA mentioned.
Contact with Spirit was misplaced on March 22, 2010, however Opportunity remains to be operation and driving across the Martian floor to today.
A small, motionless probe known as the Phoenix Lander additionally conduced analysis close to Mars’ north pole between May 28, 2008, and Nov. 2, 2008, earlier than contact was misplaced. This mission helped NASA perceive the polar areas of the planet, an space that had beforehand been unexplored.
The most up-to-date rover to reach on Mars is the Mars Science Laboratory, extra generally often called Curiosity.
Curiosity touched down in 2012 and is supplied with superior devices, equivalent to a laser to vaporize and examine rocks from a distance.
“Early in its mission, Curiosity’s scientific instruments discovered chemical and mineral proof of previous liveable environments on Mars,” NASA mentioned.
While rovers explored the Martian floor to peek into the planet’s historical past, satellites have been orbiting from excessive above to take observations from area and ship them again to Earth.
Mars Odyssey has been the longest working satellite tv for pc within the historical past of Mars exploration, arriving in 2001 and nonetheless working to today.
Over the years, it has helped scientists establish the place sure minerals and chemical compounds are on Mars, in addition to serving as a communications relay between Earth and the rovers on the planet under.
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has additionally supplied a wealth of information in regards to the planet. It is supplied with essentially the most highly effective digital camera ever flown on a planetary exploration mission and may objects as small as a dinner plate.
Information from these satellites can even be utilized by NASA to find out the touchdown spots for future rovers and finally the place people will step foot on the planet.
NASA celebrates 20 years of Mars exploration: Recounting the most important missions, discoveries by: Elie Abi Younes published: