This image shows a portion of the Martian terrain and the forward ramp of the Mars Pathfinder lander.
Click on image for full size
The Mars Surveyor Program
Because of the failure of the Mars Observer
(MO), NASA planned a new Mars Surveyor Program. The Surveyor Program was designed to explore all of the things the MO was suppose to, and a lot more. The Surveyor Program used cheaper spacecraft, and newer, more experimental engineering and design.
Among the questions
the Mars Surveyor Program was designed to answer was where is the Martian water?
The program was suppose to consist of spacecraft that would be launched about every 26 months. The spacecraft were named:
Mars Pathfinder, Mars Global Surveyor, Mars '98, Mars 2001, Mars 2003, and Mars 2005.
The Pathfinder mission was a huge success. And the Mars Global Surveyor is still taking measurements. However, the Mars '98 Orbiter and Lander were lost. After this great loss, NASA saw a need to rethink Mars exploration. This concluded the Mars Surveyor Program.
In 2000, a new Mars Exploration Program was announced. This new program includes the Mars Odyssey 2001 mission which was launched in April 2001. It also provides for five other major Mars missions in the next decade. NASA plans to launch twin rovers which will land on Mars in 2003 and a powerful scientific orbiter to be launched in 2005. A mobile science laboratory and the first of several smaller Scout missions are planned for 2007. Wrapping up this phase of exploration would be a sample return mission possibly as early as 2011. A sample return mission is where rocks and dirt would be brought back to Earth from the surface of Mars. Cool!
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The Mars Odyssey was launched April 7, 2001, from Florida. After a six-month, 285 million-mile journey, the Odyssey arrived at Mars on October 24, 2001. The Odyssey is in its aerobraking phase right now....more
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The Mars Pathfinder was launched in December 1996 on a Delta II rocket. The spacecraft entered the atmosphere on July 4th, 1997, where a heat shield, parachutes, and airbags helped it land. After impact...more
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The Mars Global Surveyor reached Mars in September of 1997. But it didn't make it into its final mapping orbit until February 1999. What took so long? Surveyor needed to reach a near-circular, low-altitude...more
Mars Global Surveyor carries an instrument which measures the heights of things. This instrument is called an altimeter, or "altitude-meter". The graph to the left shows the results returned from Mars...more