Exploring the Red Planet
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Earth's Exploration of Mars is Underway

NASA artist concept of 2003 Mars Exploration Rover
A NASA artist imagines the Mars exploration rovers Spirit and Opportunity look like this on the Red Planet.
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With the landing of America's exploration rovers Spirit and Opportunity on Mars in 2004, for the first time since America's twin Viking landers touched down on the Red Planet in 1976, and Pathfinder deployed its robot rover Sojourner in 1997, the United States had two working spacecraft on the surface of Mars.
LEARN MORE:    VIKING »»    PATHFINDER »»    SOJOURNER »»    SPIRIT »»    OPPORTUNITY »»

NASA now has completed successfully five out of its six attempts to land on the Red Planet. The Mars Polar Lander was lost in 1999. The next landing attempts will be Phoenix in 2008 and Mars Science Laboratory in 2010.
LEARN MORE:    VIKING »»    PATHFINDER »»    SOJOURNER »»    POLAR LANDER »»

In addition, NASA's 2001 Mars Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and Europe's Mars Express, are satellites working successfully in orbit above the planet. NASA's Mars Global Surveyor worked ten years in orbit, but was lost in 2006.
LEARN MORE:    GLOBAL SURVEYOR »»    ODYSSEY »»


In the December 2003-January 2004 time period, five spacecraft from Earth arrived in the vicinity of Mars. Three of the five succeeded.

The odds of all succeeding had been slim. After all, two-thirds of the three dozen spacecraft sent from Earth to Mars since 1960 had failed.

The Soviet Union had been the first nation to attempt to reach Mars. In 1960, the Soviets launched two Mars probes, but neither reached its destination.

At the end of 2003 and the beginning of 2004...

» Japan's Nozomi failed to enter Mars orbit and flew on by in December 2003.
LEARN MORE:    NOZOMI »»

» Europe's Mars Express carried Great Britain's Beagle 2 lander to Mars and released it on December 19, 2003. However, Beagle 2 has not been heard from since it was supposed to land on December 25.
LEARN MORE:    BEAGLE 2 »»

» Europe's Mars Express satellite successfully flew into orbit over Mars on December 25, 2003, and began sending back photos and science data.
LEARN MORE:    MARS EXPRESS »»

» America's exploration rover Spirit landed on target on Mars on January 4, 2004, and began sending back photos and science data.
LEARN MORE:    SPIRIT »»

» America's exploration rover Opportunity landed on target on Mars on January 25, 2004, and began sending back photos and science data. On March 2, 2004, NASA announced the rovers had confirmed liquid water once flowed on Mars.
LEARN MORE:    OPPORTUNITY »»


In 2006...

» NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter entered orbit around Mars in March 2006 and started sending back data. The science spacecraft carries six instruments in search of water and future sample-return landing sites on the planet's surface.
LEARN MORE:    MRO »»

In 2007...

» NASA will launch a robot explorer named Phoenix in August 2007 to land in May 2008 and scout the high northern latitudes of Mars.
LEARN MORE:    Phoenix »»


The future...

NASA plans to launch in December 2009 its Mars Science Laboratory, a long-range, long-duration roving science laboratory. The rover will be twice as long and three times as heavy as the famous Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, that arrived on Mars in 2004.
LEARN MORE:    Mars Science Laboratory »»

» NASA will extend the Internet to the Red Planet with the launch of the Mars Telecommunications Orbiter in 2009. The MTO spacecraft will arrive in a high orbit above Mars in 2010 and then be used to relay Internet-style data packets to Earth from a variety of Mars landers and orbiters for as much as ten years.
LEARN MORE:    MTO »»

» What's next? NASA is working on high-priority plans to send humans to explore the Red Planet. American astronauts would return to the Moon around 2015 with human flights to Mars to follow in the next decade.
LEARN MORE:    PLANS »»

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Exploring Mars
Mars Probes
Probes of the Past
Probes of the Future
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Mars Orbiter 2005
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NASA MARS HISTORY:
Rover Spirit 2003
Rover Opportunity 2003
Express 2003
Odyssey 2001
Polar Lander 1999
Climate Orbiter 1998
Deep Space 2 1999
Global Surveyor 1996
Pathfinder Lander 1996
Rover Sojourner 1996
Pathfinder Mission 1996
Viking-1 Lander 1975
Viking-2 Orbiter 1975
Viking-1 Lander 1975
Viking-1 Orbiter 1975
Mariner 9 Orbiter 1971
Mars 3 Lander 1971
Mariner 4 Flyby 1964
Viking Mission 1975
Mars Meteorites - JPL
EXPLORATIONS PLANNED:
2003 & Beyond - Goddard
2005 & Beyond - JPL
Mars Exploration - JPL
Plans to Explore Planets


SOLAR SYSTEM:
Solar System - JPL
Welcome to the Planets - JPL
Planetary Photojournal - JPL
Mars - Athena - NASA Ames
Solar System Tour - BBC
Mars - New York Times
Windows...Universe - UMich
Mars - Apollo Society
Planetary Society
Mars Society
The Nine Planets
Planet Mars Company
Solar System - STO
Solar System Tour
Artist conception of Mars with water four billion years ago
NASA CONCEPTION OF MARS WITH
WATER FOUR BILLIONS YEAR AGO
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