58 Years Of Mars Exploration In 14 Minutes
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As far back as the 2nd millennium BC, Ancient astronomers identified 5 celestial objects moving differently than the backdrop of stars.
The Greeks called them “planetes” meaning wanderers and many ancient civilizations would go on to worship them as deities.
With its abundant iron oxide dispersed on its surface, giving it a reddish appearance, the Romans worshiped Mars as the God of War.
Over time, mystical worship shifted to fantastical speculation, of intelligent life on Mars.
In 1877, Italian Astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli observed a network of linear structures on the surface of Mars leading to a surge of speculation of the possibility of intelligent life on the Planet.
The idea of an Advanced Martian civilization was widely covered by newspapers and magazine along with many science fiction novels, capturing the imagination of the public, right up to the Space Age and the first missions to Mars.
Between October 1960 and November 1962, the Soviet Union launched 5 missions to Mars.
Each one failed.
NASA continued the streak of misfortune in 1964, with the failure of Mariner 3.
Three weeks later, NASA launched the Mariner 4 spacecraft, becoming the first successful mission to Mars.
Mariner 4 was a flyby mission, and reached Mars on July 14th and 15th 1965, marking an incredible and historic moment.
Equipped with a Telescope, Mariner 4 took 22 close-up images of Mars.
These were the first images ever captured and returned to Earth from deep space.
Mariner 4 transmitted measurements of Mars’s atmosphere which turned out to be much thinner than expected.
Additionally, it did not detect a magnetic field, radiation belts or surface water.
These findings dashed hopes of discovering intelligent life on Mars.
Just two days after Mariner 4 was launched, the Soviet Union Launched the Zond 2 spacecraft but they lost communications with it, making it 6 failed Mars missions in a row for the country.
Then NASA went back to Mars with Mariner 6 & 7, launched in February and March 1969.
6 &7 were both sent on flyby missions and were both successful.
The spacecraft uncovered that the Mars atmosphere is comprised of mostly carbon dioxide.
They also were able to transmit 201 images back to Earth, covering around 20% of the surface.
The images did not reveal any of the canals mistakenly observed by late 19th century astronomers, another letdown for Intelligent Life hopefuls.
However, Mariner 6 & 7 detected trace amounts water on the surface of Mars, providing some hope to finding life on Mars.
Back to the Soviet Union, it launched The Mars 2M No. 522 in 1969 and the Kosmos 419 in 1971.
Both missions failed, extending their streak 9 unsuccessful mission.
And then FINALLY, in May 1971, the Soviet Union launched the twin space probes Mars 2 and 3.
The Probes were identical, each consisting of an orbiter and a lander.
Both orbiters were successful, transmitting a total of 60 images, discovering mountains as high 22 km and revealing surface temperatures between -110 and 13° C.
And the orbiters likely remain in Mars Orbit to this day…
The Mars 2 & 3 landers are the other hand did not fare so well.
The Mars 2 Lander’s descent system malfunctioned and the parachute did not deploy causing it to crash.
And then Mars 3 lander successfully landed, however communications failed after 14 seconds.
Meanwhile, back at NASA, they launched two orbiters, Mariner 8 & 9 also in May 1971.
Mariner 8 failed, but Mariner 9 was highly successful.
Despite launching 11 days after the Soviet’s Mars 2 & 3, Mariner 9 beat the others to Mars becoming the first spacecraft to orbit another planet.
When Mariner 9 arrived at Mars it found the surface completely covered by a planet-wide dust storm and scientist had to delay imaging for months until the storm settled.
Mariner 9 was able to transmit over 7,000 images, covering 85% of Mars’ surface.
The images revealed river beds, vast canyon systems over 4,000 km long, along with massive extinct volcanoes including Olympus Mons, the largest known volcano in the Solar System.
1973 was a busy year for the Soviet Union, which launched Mars 4, 5, 6 & 7.
All four missions failed for the most part, except Mars 5 manage to transmit 180 images before it was disabled likely from a micrometeoroid.
At this point, the Soviet Union had only 2 successful missions out of 18, and it wouldn’t attempt another mission to Mars for 15 years…