The U.S. just launched a new mission to Mars. As in JUST launched. It successfully took off shortly after 7 am (EDT) on Saturday, May 5th from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California!
It’s a lander (not a rover) called Insight. And is expected to land on Mars on November, 26, 2018 Earth calendar.
BONUS: This is the first interplanetary launch from the West coast of North America.
While the USA was first to successfully fly by and image Mars (Mariner 4) in 1964, the former USSR was the first to both successfully orbit Mars and successfully land on Mars (Mars 3 Orbiter/Lander) in 1971!
I bet you didn’t know Earth has been successfully sending visitors to Mars for 47 years.
And of the 44 attempted missions to Mars by various countries on Earth, 23 have failed. That’s more than half! Granted the failure rate is heavier in the 1960s and 70s than it is now. But the most recent failure was 2011. (The most recent failure for the USA was 1999.)
The point being: It’s hard to get to Mars! Even after 47 years of trying and succeeding! That’s why we still celebrate every time there’s a success.
Mars Exploration Historical Log
1) The ESA – European Space Agency on its own, the ESA together with Russia, and India on its own, have all successfully orbited Mars.
2) Japan, Russia (post USSR), and Russia together with China, have tried to reach Mars but failed.
Mars is half the diameter of Earth, but both planets have the same amount of dry land. (Yes, it’s a coincidence.)
How Big Is Mars
While Curiosity celebrated being on Mars for 2000 sols (Martian days) on March 22, I think it’s cooler that Curiosity celebrated being on Mars for 3 Martian years on March 26!
Extra Credit: It is currently year 34 on Mars.
In honor of the “Mars Rovers!” lesson I will be teaching tomorrow at a local elementary school, here is a picture of the 3 generations of Mars Rovers.
It’s a real picture too! “How?” I hear you ask, as you are savvy enough to know the Mars rovers did not all land in the same location on Mars. Well, every rover has a “twin” back here on Earth called the flight spare (for the first) or test rover (for the others).
SO, without further ado, I give you in NASA’s own words:
- Marie Curie (the flight spare for Sojourner)
- Surface System Test Bed (the test rover and working sibling to Spirit and Opportunity)
- Vehicle System Test Bed (the test rover for Curiosity)
Here’s a picture with humans in it, for perspective. I wish I could link the one where the humans are standing, so you can see that Spirit / Oppy are shorter than an average scientist and Curiosity is well taller.
Another Fun Fact:
The 4th generation of Mars rovers is already in production, and will be launched in 2020. This yet to be named contraption is currently being called “Mars 2020 Rover”.
Last Tuesday she looked at me like this. And for the first time, someone looking at me like this didn’t scare me or creep me out. I actually liked it. Remembering that look on her face makes me smile.
How many times have YOU played “chocolate or poop” since the New Year?
I’m in the “dozens” range.