Mars is not a friendly place. It's freezing, windy, barren, and quiet except for howling dust storms that can threaten hopeful visitors. The planet is kind of a jerk, really, presenting vindictive obstacles to thwart the robotic explorers sent toward it for the past 47 years. And Mars usually wins.
In the decades since humans started sending spacecraft to Mars, the Red Planet has outscored us handily; humans have only about a .411 batting average overall -- not great for missions that cost billions of dollars and countless time to build. Seventeen landers have been sent, and just seven made it to the surface safely, each of them with varying degrees of success. NASA is attempting the most complicated mission ever with its new Mars rover Curiosity, which will ring in Attempt No. 18. The rocky history of Mars explorers is weighing on managers' minds, and not just because of Curiosity's intense autonomous landing.
"Is it crazy? Well, not so much — once you understand it, it's not so crazy. Is it risky? Landing on Mars is always risky," said Doug McCuistion, director of the Mars Exploration Program at NASA headquarters. "Mars throws things at you. Dust storms, atmospheric density, wind."
Landing something on another world, anything at all, is very difficult to do, especially when the place is very far away and so inordinately inhospitable. Past landing attempts are proof of this.
Humanity's first mechanical landing attempt was a failure, when the Soviet Union's Mars 2 lander crashed after its braking rockets did not fire. Mars 3 arrived a few days after that disaster, on Dec. 2, 1971, becoming the first successful landing on Mars — but it relayed only 20 seconds of data before it, too, died on the dusty surface. A handful more Soviet missions either crashed or missed the planet entirely; then came the American Viking landers, a major success for the U.S., entering Mars orbit during our bicentennial year.
The Viking missions contained experiments to study the weather, photograph panoramic views of the landscape, and even look for microbes — those results are still being debated, actually. But they were successful in the mere fact of their landing.
Nothing went to Mars for another decade after the Vikings landed; the USSR sent the Phobos missions, 1 and 2, in 1988 to land on one of Mars' moons, but neither probe made it. A few orbiters were sent in the 1990s — the U.S. lost one and delivered one successfully — but the next lander wouldn't arrive for 20 years after Viking. NASA's Pathfinder lander and Sojourner rover arrived on July 4, 1997, and drove around on the surface, to the delight of scientists and the public.
This was supposed to be followed by the Mars Polar Lander, also known as the Mars Surveyor mission, but in an epic failure, the mission's orbiter was lost because one engineering team used the metric system while another used English units. The lander also failed following a premature engine shutdown and hard landing.
2003 saw both failure and success — Europe's Beagle 2 lander (named for Charles Darwin's ship) never communicated with Earth, but the Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity arrived on opposite sides of the planet, bouncing in airbags toward safe landings and deployment. Both far outlasted their warranties; Opportunity is still rolling. Still, Mars finally beat Spirit, trapping her wheels in sand and preventing the rover from reaching enough sunlight to survive.
"Mars wins most of the time," McCuistion said.
NASA's Mars Phoenix lander is the most recent successful mission, capturing images of Martian snow before succumbing to the harsh Arctic winter. And now comes Curiosity, bringing the most complex organic chemistry lab and geology tools ever sent to another heavenly body. It is designed to last a full Martian year — two years in Earth time — and find out once and for all whether Mars could have been habitable.
But habitable does not mean hospitable. Curiosity faces several hurdles in its attempt to scale a -mile-high mountain at the center of Gale Crater — and that's assuming it lands safely, handling any errant dust storms or wayward winds Mars may offer on the night of Aug. 5.
McCuistion said NASA was created to take on big challenges, and MSL defines that phrase. Paraphrasing Robert Kennedy, he said, "Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly. MSL is poised to do great things."
Who said it was hard? Maybe if the greedy, moron paranoid psychopathic narcissistic richies military-industrial complex would have shared the technology that they didn't even invent after the Roswell Crash and other one before it, we'd actually have space hotels and colonies all over galaxy. But no, we all have to stay on Earth and wait for NASA to tell us what we can do. Sick. May God save these noodle worshiping Bible-denier morons.
Governments of the world = control freak morons who can't bear the thought of people being free to live where they choose and in in the design of their choice. Nope, just can't let go. Instead, build telescopes and robots and wait for them to tell us what they found. Disgusting.
When will liberals stop trying to force their religion down everyone's throats?
Any liberals find any proof for a magical 14 billion year old bomb that went off for no reason and made everything yet? Or are there still billions of years of gaps? Anyone liberal "scientists" find any explanation as to why there are "living fossils" all over the place yet, why they didn't evolve for millions of years, if everything is evolving and adapting and where supposedly there's no nice and neat fossil columns to prove evolution with and few fossils because of repeated convenient cataclysms (so then why are there living fossils everywhere if the environment is repeatedly being destroyed... can't make sense can you, just circular reasoning and whatever to make the meanie God of the Bible go away from your "brain").
I know in my heart and mind God is the God of all because it's evident that random bombs can't make universes, let alone a single living thing. But yeah, keep looking through your telescope and microscopes, ever learning and never coming to truth as God says, and watching anime and playing games all day and trying to convince everyone gay sex is great and getting high nonstop, cuz, cuz religion is boring, right, wrong: you hate the Bible because it exposes you as self-centered sinners. You come up with any and every distraction, stupid propaganda articles like these, to make yourselves look like you have a life, are honest, care, are concerned, when what you care and are concerned about is the truth shaming you in front of your friends. Nonsense won't stop God, the Lamb will return and Judgment Day is inevitable.
I can't wait to watch this and see the outcome. Success or fail, we'll learn something new and be able to improve the current techniques.
chosenbygrade, you're trying too hard. You have to be more subtle to be a successful troll.
@chosenbygrace Yikes. "it's evident that random bombs can't make universes, let alone a single living thing." I think you inadvertently hurt your own point with that one. I'd spend more time addressing your misguided qualms with Evolution, but since your comments are inevitably going to be removed in short order, it would be a waste of time.
that was a weather balloon...nothing more
@chosenbygrace Wow. Did you accidentally stumble onto this site? Go back to school and learn basic grammar and maybe some elementary science education then we can have a semi coherent argument.
This article depicts an extremely pretty picture of Mars!
The US has placed 4 out of 5 missions on Mars. The Russians are 0 for 6 or 7. ( A hand full of missions doesn't tell me much). Seem like we are doing pretty good. Europe is 0-2.
Wow.......trolling at it's finest. go NASA.
Chosenbygrace... you scare me... making statements upon which you have no supportive evidence.
May I point you in the direction of a book?
Hubble Revealing Creation.
I ask that you pray for healing. The sin of anger just spews from your keyboard.
Final thought, God said it... BANG! HE created it! There is the Big Bang Theory proven.
"To whom will you compare me? Who is my equal?" asks the Holy One. "Look up into the heavens. Who created all the stars? He brings them out like an army, one after another, calling each by its name. Because of his great power and incomparable strength, not a single one is missing." -
Isaiah 40:25, 26 - 732 BCE
Chosenbygrace obviously needs to get back on his meds.
cant tell if trolling, or just stupid
that comment has been up for 5 hours, are there no moderators with ban hammers here?
it appears to me that you are a:
a) a troll
b) an extremist
c) a 10 year old boy that lacks intellect (yes, I don't think that's your real face in the picture)
d) a 35 year old man that has no life
PS: Do some research on religion,history, and science. We didn't visit this site just to see somebody rant about their views of life. not much people care (your views are flawed in many ways).
One way to escape our planet, and become an interstellar species, is to get massive amounts of water into space cheaply. With a small reactor that water is converted into rocket fuel green house, nuclear sub, and Terraformer all in one. This is done by taking a simple concept by Hans Moravec, of the sky hook, and hybridizing it. First the sky hook is shortened even further by putting rockets in the middle and at the ends to maintain its orbit. Then it is altered into a pipe, slash fuel tank, a reactor in the middle is used to create fuel, or hydrogen and oxygen are pumped separately. Fuel tanker aircraft can fill tow tons per minute. The dream goal 80 tons annually are easily met in less than a week.
The fuel is dropped sub orbit ally to be docked with by high flying aircraft like space ship one outside the atmosphere. Then it is used to fly aircraft from 70 miles up to go into low earth orbit 300 miles high. This will not only increase safety, lower cost, but also put payloads into space regularly. A space station with a reactor on it, can use and reuses that water. Spin the inflated craft to make a micro gravity that puts water on the surface to protect people inside from solar radiation, and to nourish a full green house to make food for the long journey to Mars. A steady number of voyages to Mars will make is safer and more sustainable for people to go there if something goes wrong in one of them.
Cheap water in space may not only make Mars reachable, but also Terraform it by shielding the whole planet for the main solar wind. Close to the sun, in Mars synchronous obit, that shield could be as small as thirty miles in diameter. Simply filed with water it will protect Mars from the main solar wind, and allow it to accumulate an atmosphere. That will transform the planet into enough space for another earth size population. It would also, make man an interstellar species because small tethers could be used on mars to lift heavy space craft, made their, into space.
Need to save that rant somewhere for rainy days.
1)There is no huge EM field on Mars, the real reason life on Earth isn't fried by the 4500f-7500f Solar winds..not the Physists' "butter zone" nonsence
This means Cosmic ray bomardment, and solar wind bombardment that has stripped all Mars lighter gases and surface water not in Ice form or buried away
2)There is no noticable plate tectonics on Mars, Earth's actual Average Global Tempature ("climate"))Regulator, not "greenhouse gases'" Physists' nonsence
Yet 60f is possible in the day time (Cosmic rays and solar wind will kill you though)
Hey but those Microbs on Viking grew after the space travel and on a Alien world so anything is possible for past life
Guess would be life would live undeground away from Cosmic Radiation
There is so much 'mater of fact' belief life existed in the past on Mars, I am curious what was the reason of its die off?
Chosenbygrace,you are a friggin looney toon,and you need to be caught and locked back up in the mental institution from where you escaped.I think I lost brain cells just from reading your stupid rants,you have not one clue about the way life really works.All of you religious clowns should stay off of this site.
My Grandmas best friend's sister's former roommate who has one leg and a lazy eye makes $83/hr on the laptop. She has been without work for 8 months but last month her pay was $8682 just working on the laptop for a few hours. Read more on this site...NuttÿRîçhDÖtcom
I really hate this ****
If I was king of Mars, I grow lots of veggies as soon as possible! That is, if I was king of Mars.... ;)
@chosenbygrace Dude......DDDDUUUUDDDDEEEE. NO. Wow. Were you not taught the concept of opinion, here's a clue everyone has one. You obviously have your own, or fact as you obviously think of it. Intellectual debate is most likely a no-go, so tightin up that tin-foil hat and try to comprehend a differnet perspective, debate requires that you understand what it is your talking about. Judging by your post your have a mountain of research to catch up on. That said, YOU ARE IN A SCIENCE CENTERED WEB SITE. Many who visit this site understand that the very nature of science is one of discovery and phase shifts are common, absolutes are not welcome, especially in the form of angry fear based blog preaching.
@chosenbygrace. " ...what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul."
I can't believe I found an instance in life where an Adam Sandler movie sums up my thoughts.
chosenbygrace, I thought of you this morning after glancing down the toilet and wiping my ass. Wow, what similarities between that an reading your article.
Article forgot to mention how large this rover Curiosity is, something like 10' long by 6' tall, huge compared to any others!
@chosenbygrace... Words fail me. And the "Roswell crash" has been explained for years; it was mysterious because it was the debris from a then-top-secret project involving balloons ("Project Mogul"). Look it up for yourself. You'll continue to believe what you want to believe, of course, but please apply Occam's Razor every so often.
@tmarti69, there is already lots of water in space, just not much floating around in the inner system. Saturn's rings are thought to be mostly ice; comets usually are mostly ice. It would be cheaper to send robot tugs to bring ice from the outer system instead of dragging it up from Earth, so long as you don't need it immediately.
Why were so many of you suck in to the mind of chosenbygrace? You did have the choice of ingoring his comment and just focusing on the article and making your own comments.
I really look forward to future comments from people about this article, the lander and Mars. Take care. ;)
Why is it so hard to provide an answer to the question in the headline?
I think the primary reason that it's hard to land on Mars is its thin atmosphere, reducing the effectiveness of parachutes. It would be nice if the article addressed the question it posed.
To answer a general question like this is impossible without all the circumstances of every craft so far, which we do not have.