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Space Station Info :: Nine Planet Solar System :: History of Mars :: Mars Exploration

Mars Exploration

Numerous spacecraft, including orbiters, landers, and rovers, have been sent to Mars by the Soviet Union, the United States, Europe, and Japan to study the planet's surface, climate, and geography.

Mars Exploration

About two-thirds of all spacecraft destined for Mars have failed in one manner or another before completing or even start their missions. Part of this high failure rate can be recognized to technical problems, but enough have either failed or lost communications for no apparent reason that some researchers half-jokingly speak of an Earth-Mars "Bermuda Triangle" or of a Great Galactic Ghoul which subsists on a diet of Mars probes, or of a Mars Curse.

Among the most successful missions are the Mars probe program, the Mariner and Viking programs, Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Pathfinder, and Mars Odyssey. Global Surveyor has taken pictures of gullies and debris flow features that suggest there may be current sources of liquid water, similar to an aquifer, at or near the surface of the planet. Mars Odyssey resolute that there are vast deposits of water ice in the upper three meters of Mars' regolith within 60 latitude of the south pole.

The ESA launched the Mars Express craft consisting of the Mars Express Orbiter, and the Lander Beagle 2 in 2003. Mars Express Orbiter confirmed the presence of water ice and carbon dioxide ice at the planet's South Pole. NASA had previously confirmed their presence at the north pole of Mars. Attempts to get in touch with the Beagle 2 failed and it was confirmed lost in early February 2004.

NASA launched the twin Mars Exploration Rovers named Spirit (MER-A) and Opportunity (MER-B) in 2003. Both missions landed effectively in January 2004 and have met or exceeded all their targets; while a 90-day nominal mission was planned, as of February 2005, their missions have been extended twice and they continue to return science, even though some mechanical faults have occurred. Amid the most significant science return has been evidence of liquid water some time in the past at both landing sites. As well as, for the first time, dust devils imaged from ground-level have been detected moving across the surface of Mars by Spirit (MER-A).

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Geology of Mars
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Canals of Mars
The Moons Of Mars
Exploration Of Mars
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