MARS — Don’t forget in all the furor over the current Mars landing and exploration (Curiosity) that there have been a multitude of unmanned landings — seven that were successful. I have seen several Tumblrs that have claimed that Curiosity is the FIRST landing. It is not.
I’ve noted the four most notable landings below.
1976, America launched and released a lander module that made the first soft landing on the planet’s surface.
25 July 1976 the infamous “Face of Mars” was photographed.
Right: a colour photograph from the Viking lander of the Viking landing site.
Mars Pathfinder Spacecraft
1997 July 4 Ares Vallis an ancient flood plain and one of the rockiest surfaces on the red planet.
Sojourner the remote controlled rover - the media carried news, images, and the name of little Sojourner the world over. A feat never before achieved.
The final date transmission was 27 September 1997 - in that time the lander sent 16,500 images, the rover sent 550 images (both in colour and black and white) and there were at least 15 chemical analyses of rocks and soil proving that Mars was at one time warm and wet.
The ancient and rocky Ares Vallis taken by the Mars Pathfinder lander.
Mars Exploration Rovers
Launched June and July of 2003 they were notable for a a temporary loss of communication that held the entire world breathless until the problem was solved. The rovers were only meant to explore for 3 months but they lasted well beyond that: Spirit launched on 10 June 2003 lost contact with Earth in March of 2010. Opportunity (launched in July 1997)continues to carry out surveys of the planet, and surpassed 50 miles on its odometer earlier this year. These rovers have discovered new things, including Heat Shield Rock, the first meteorite to be discovered on another planet.
Side note — it is hoped that this year’s Mars rover will “meet” Opportunity.
Mars as photographed by the Spirit rover.
Launched 4 August 2007 it was successfully photographed while landing. Contact was lost in 2008 but it’s mission was considered a success because it performed all programmed and remote tasks.
The photograph was taken by the Mars Orbiter camera.
Source: Various Wikipedia articles and old news archives (Time, Newsweek, and USA Today)