Exploring the Red Planet
2003 Rovers Mars Express Beagle 2 Japan Nozomi
2005 Orbiter 2007 Scout Smart Lander Sample Return
All Probes Pathfinder 2001 Odyssey Global Surveyor
Mariners Vikings Phobos Polar/Climate
Future Plans Other Places Human Trips Mars the Planet

Future Mars Probes From Earth:

Answering Old Questions, Solving New Mysteries

Mars Explore Timeline Researchers say Mars once was more like Earth — warmer and wetter with a denser atmosphere. What happened to its climate and geology? Did the planet foster life? Could hardy organisms be hanging on in crevices or soil? Do the climate changes raise a yellow flag for life on Earth?

And then there's the strange case of the ancient Martian meteorite found on Earth in 1996. It sharpened the focus for Mars flights yet to come.

A new era of sophistcated robot probes launched from Earth by the United States, Japan and Europe in the late 1990s and early 2000s will teach us many new things about Mars and should further unravel some old mysteries.

Pathfinder and its rover Sojourner were only the beginning of a decades-long process aimed at answering ancient questions. When Pathfinder landed on July 4, 1997, it had been 21 years since a robot from Earth had touched down safely on Mars.

Over the next decade, many more landers have been scheduled to reach the Red Planet and many new orbiters are scheduled to be circling above, mapping the Martian terrain and relaying communications back to Earth.

Good launch windows for blasting scientific probes from Earth toward Mars are determined by the Red Planet's orbit in relation to Earth's orbit around the Sun. The best windows open once every 26 months. NASA, the U.S. space agency, is planning to fling robot spacecraft toward Mars during every available window into the foreseeable future.

From Earth to Mars...
single gray pixel

Pathfinder and its rover Sojourner in 1997 were merely the first of a score of new Martian adventures planned by the United States, Japan, Europe and Russia.

Mars Global Surveyor has been surveying the planet from overhead since 1997, sending back hordes of valuable pictures and data.

The orbiter 2001 Mars Odyssey has been surveying the planet from overhead since 2001, sending back more valuable pictures and relaying data.

Japan's Nozomi orbiter and Europe's Mars Express with its Beagle 2 lander are on the way to the Red Planet.

Sets of orbiters, landers and rovers will be sent to Mars every two years — 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009 and beyond — to gather data, set up communications and collect samples for eventual return to Earth. The earlier Mars probes will be disposable. When their work is done, they will either stay on the Martian surface or drift through space. Beginning with the sample return missions, NASA's Mars robot spacecraft will make a round-trip voyage to pick up soil and return it to Earth. Dirt and rock samples then would be analyzed on Earth to answer long-standing questions.

Taken together, the fleet of Mars probes will amount to the most ambitious human space project since the Apollo flights to the Moon in the 1960s.

Men are from Mars . . .
single gray pixel

The biggest Mars mystery is whether life ever did, or still does, exist on the Red Planet. The discovery on Earth of meteorites from Mars which seem to contain evidence of primitive life out there has raised many new questions about the origin of life in the Solar System.
  • Could Mars have had simple forms of life before organic life appeared on Earth?

  • Could a chunk of Mars have landed on Earth and seeded our planet? That's a far-out suggestion, but, if true, we would be the result three or four billion years later.

  • Are we Martians? Some scientists find it a fascinating speculation that perhaps the home planet of the human race might actually be Mars.

  • With one of Earth's nearest neighbors showing evidence of life, could life be far more prevalent in the galaxy than people have imagined?
Answering such questions and unraveling mysteries would lead to an age of enlightenment on Earth. The answers undoubtedly would bring up even more profound questions.

Men are from Earth...
single gray pixel

A human flight to the Red Planet may be possible in the period 2018-2025. NASA is planning for human crews to explore Mars sometime around then.

It takes time to design and carry out missions to planets. NASA says six years are required between a decision to send humans to Mars and blastoff. Thus, the data on Mars climate and geology collected by Pathfinder and its several followers will be essential for planning ahead.

Humans fly now only in the so-called "low-Earth orbit" around 200 miles above Earth. The only time human beings have flown farther from Earth was briefly during the Apollo Project era of Moon flights in the late 1960s and early 1970s. People won't fly farther again until a manned mission to Mars in the period 2018-2025. The actual blast-off date depends on what the coming visits by robot Mars probes find at the Red Planet.

When a probe returns to Earth from Mars, after a three year trip, with a pound of Martian rock and soil, we will learn whether Mars has mysteries that require humans to go there to solve.

Space Today Online:
Exploring Mars
Mars Probes
Probes of the Past
Probes of the Future
Mars Water
Mars Canals
Mars Air
Mars Rocks
Mars Seasons
Mars Mountains
Mars Rift Valley
Mars Moons
Mars Life Search
Mars Dust Storms
Mars Stats
Mars Nearby
Mars history
Mars Resources
Mars Orbiter 2005
Mars Scout 2007
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
Solar System    Search STO    STO Cover    About STO    Questions    Suggestions    Feedback    E-Mail     © 2005 Space Today Online