Mars series – part four: successful U.S. Mars mission (1996 – 2007)
Part Four in the Mars series –
Successful U.S. Mars Missions (1996 -2007)
Mars Global Surveyor – Orbiter
MGS was launched November 7, 1996 inaugurating a 20-year absence of the United States exploring Mars. MGS completed its mission in January 2001. NASA lost contact with it in November 5th, 2006, and officially ended the mission in January 2007.
Fossil Fans in Melas Chasma
Image credit: NASA
Mars Pathfinder – Lander & Surface Rover
Mars Pathfinder was launched December 4, 1996, landing on Ares Vallis on Mars, July 4, 1997. After landing the craft delivered the rover Sojourner to the surface for scientific exploration. The mission performed experiments aimed at helping us better understand the Martian atmosphere, climate, geology and the composition of its rocks and soil.
Twin Peaks Left View
Image credit: NASA/JPL
2001 Mars Odyssey – Orbiter
The 2001 Mars Odyssey Orbiter launched on April 7, 2001, reaching Martian orbit on October 24, 2001. It is currently operational. Mars Odyssey is helping us understand Mars’ past and present water and volcanic activity. Our hope is to learn of life ever existed on Mars. NASA has extended the mission of 2001 Mars Odyssey presently to September 2008.
Image credit: NASA
Mars Exploration Rovers – Two Rovers
Spirit Rover – launched 10 June 2003. Spirit Rover landed on Mars 4 January 2004. It is still operational. Updates can be found here.
Opportunity Rover – launched 7 July 2003, reaching Mars 25 January 2004. Like its sister Spirit, Opportunity Rover performs extensive geological analysis of Martian rocks and planetary surface features.
A layer of light-toned rock exposed inside Victoria Crater in the Meridiani Planum region of Mars . Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Phoenix Mars Lander – Lander (August 4, 2007)
Phoenix Mars Lander was launched 4 August 2007 and is due to land in the Spring 2008.
“Phoenix will be the first mission to touch water-ice on Mars. Its robotic arm will dig to an icy layer believed to lie just beneath the surface. The mission will study the history of the water in the ice, monitor weather of the polar region, and investigate whether the subsurface environment in the far-northern plains of Mars has ever been favorable for sustaining microbial life.” NASA statement from press release.
NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander has launched from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aboard a Delta II rocket. Image credit: NASA