Spacecraft to Mars

     Mars has been explored by numerous spacecraft, most of them belonging to NASA.. As early as 1965, the Mariner 4 spacecraft flew by the red planet At long last we had our first glimpses of a world we were so sure was much like our own.

     Alas, we found no Martians and saw no traces of irrigation canals, or signs of life at all. But the more we saw of Mars, the more we wanted to know.


Mariner 4 flew by Mars in July 1965 This was followed by Mariner 6 and 7 in 1969.The images sent back showed what appeared to be a geologically dead world. There was an abundance of craters much like the moon. It was also from these spacecraft that we learned that Mars' polar caps were made of Carbon Dioxide ice instead of water ice.

In 1971, Mariner 9 flew by Mars and mapped the entire planet down to 1 km. These images brought a wealth of information and it soon become clear that Mars was indeed a complex planet. It was not, in fact, like the moon and merely composed of a crater strewn rocky surface. Mariner 9 revealed plains, canyons, drainage channels and even volcanos. Mariner 9 evoked such enthusiasm that plans were begun for Mars landers.


In 1976, Viking 1 and 2 landed on the Martian surface. Viking orbiters mapped the planet down to 100 meters and refined landing site locations for the landers. The landers used a heat shield to leave orbit, then parachuted to the surface, using retro-rockets to further slow descent.

Viking 1 landed on an ancient lava flow Viking 2 landed 6 weeks later about 5000 km away. The orbiters and landers returned over 55,000 images. Over the next four years, over 4 million weather reports from the Martian surface were transmitted to Earth.

The landers studied the Martian rocks which were found to be basaltic lava in composition. It was also discovered that the surface of Mars was covered by a firm sandy coating and that it resembled our deserts, only much drier.

Pathfinder and Mars Rover explore Mars

The Lure of Mars

The Martian Atmosphere

The Surface of Mars

Seasons and Climate on Mars

Water on Mars

The Moons of Mars

Spacecraft To Mars

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Kathy Miles, Author, and Chuck Peters, Systems Administrator
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