“Since ancient time, we earthlings have believed that “Mars’, the mysterious red planet carried war, pestilence and the need of human sacrifice. The Romans named ‘Mars’ as their ‘God of war’. The mystery possessed by this planet has always ill cited the curiosity of earthlings with an imaginary belief that there also exists an alien civilization like on earth. Several movies fed on this idea, in which green Martians with head and dressing, seen trying to take over the earth”

Until the sixties, the conception of tellurians was up to the movies, picturisation or up to what the scientists could see through telescope etc. Then began the space and.’Mars’ became the favorite target for scientists’ curiosity. The beginning space research era helped mankind in exploring the hidden secrets of universe. USA and the erstwhile USSR, pioneered the space exploration with several oft space crafts and satellites sent on expeditions to study the Earth’s atoms weather, oceans as well as Sun and other celestial bodies and planets like Moon All such expeditions brought back invaluable information’s about the evolution history of earth, Moon and other planets and celestial bodies.

‘Mars’ and earth has almost equal rotational period at the axis. Mars takes hours, 37 minutes, in rotating upon its axis, thus the Mars day is identical to an day. While earth takes approximately 365 days to rotate round the sun, the Mars 687 days to make such one trip, because of its eccentric orbit. The gravity of M one- third of earth’s, and atmosphere at Mars is much thinner than that at earth, as the atmospheric pressure at ‘Mars’ is just 1 % that of earth.

Exploring mystery of Mars

1. In 1962, the erstwhile USSR launched Mars 1, successfully left Earth’ but failed as the communication with the craft was lost enroute.


2. The USA’s craft Mariner-3 launched in 1964, was also failed when its panels could not be opened.

3. The same year USA launched another spacecraft Marine-4 that sent 22 photographs of’ Mars’ showing therein a cratered, desert surface.

4. USA again launched Mariner-6 in 1969, that passed within 3400 kms planet and sent video of the equatorial regions as well as surface tempera atmospheric pressure measurements of the planet.

5. USA launched again Mariner-7 in the same year of 1969 that pas the Southern hemisphere and sent back about 200 photographs. So far all the Mariners launched by USA were flybys and none were meant to land at the surface of the


6. In 1971, USSR launched an orbiter / lander Mars-2, but it crashed during a dust storm.

7. Again in the same year USSR launched Mars-3 that made the first successful landing on Mars, transmitted 20 seconds of data until contact was lost in dust storms.

8. The USA’s Mariner-9, launched in 1971, became the first US spacecraft to orbit ‘Mars’. It sent back the first high resolution images of Martian Moons Phobos and Deimos. The Mariner-9’s important discovery was the presence of huge volcanoes on Mars, larger than any in the solar system, so far known. The Mariner 9 also recorded hydrogen escaping the planet in such a huge amount, that indicates that thousands of gallons of water evaporating a day. Mariner-9 also found that the atmosphere of Mars is 100 times thinner than that of earth, composed mainly of carbon di-oxide, carbon mono-oxide, water vapors and a little oxygen. During this period, USSR also sent three more spacecrafts. Mars-4 in 1973, Mars-6 in the same year and Mars 7 again in 1973, but none was succeeded due to one or more technical reasons.

9. Viking-I and Viking-II by USA


In 1976, the Viking-I and Viking-II spacecrafts sent by USA, were more successful. Viking-I, became the first US orbiter to have landed on the Mars. It returned thousands of images and discovered the presence of water ice in the polar cap. While Viking-II, sent in the same year, detected the presence of Argon and Nitrogen in the atmosphere of Mars. It also sent thousands of images and found the sky of the Mars, blue, and soil red, and rocks grayish green and black in color. Scientists who analyzed data received from Viking opined that though Mars would have lost much of its water, it still has plenty in frozen form and Mars is much colder than the earth. The average temperature on Mars found to be below the freezing point of water.

None of the Viking scientists could opined about the existence of life on Mars. Scientists concluded that more ultraviolet light reaches the Martian surface than the earth because earth’s ozone shield blocks much of the ultraviolet rays. Viking’s striking color photographs proved it beyond doubt that the planet is strikingly red and its dust, rocks and boulders are of varying shaded colors. In 1977, an orbiter passed within 90 kms of Phobos, one of the moon of Mars, and sent close pictures in routine, revealed that both the moons are of potato shape rather than spherical and have no identical color of Mars.

After these two Viking missions of USA, the USSR launched Phobos I-orbiter/ lander in 1988 to investigate the moon Phobos, but again the mission failed due to a bad command that caused the spacecraft to point its solar panels away from the sun. USA again sent Mars observer in 1992, to conduct high and low resolution imaging of the planet, surface investigation and weather analysis, but on Aug. 21, 1993, lost its communication to the earth just before it could enter into the orbit of Mars. One thing the Viking mission could not achieve was movement, although it had robotic arms that could reach out and scoop up soil.

10. The spacecraft Pathfinder, launched from Cape Canaveral on Dec. 4, 1996, landed on Mars on July 4, 1997, after concluding a 5000 km. journey. Pathfinder sent back detailed photographs of a harsh landscape that bears signs of availability of water, a basic requirement for life. The Pathfinder and its rover Sojourner provided a wealth of information on the rocks, soils and atmosphere on Mars. It returned the first live pictures of the planet’s topography and its tiny rover explored a variety of rocks and analyzed their mineral composition with its cameras and on boards X-ray spectrometer analysis indicate 9 the presence of oxidized iron and rusting of surface/ of Mars. Images and various data sent by Pathfinder gave the strongest evidence that the Red Planet had an abundance of water millions of years ago. NASA launched the Mars global surveyor on Nov. 7, 1996 the spacecraft began its mapping operation! On March 27, 1998, discovered the clear proof of an ancient hydrothermal system near the equator, it means that a thicker atmosphere had existed on Mars history.


11. The rovers though sent very important information to the earth, yet it did not have much of a scientific instrument with it and can’t move far from its lander. The latest MER robots sent on Mars was designed as robotic geologists. The instruments and equipments packed into the rovers were primarily designed investigate the rocks. It is much larger vehicle, more than 180 kg in weight and able to travel tens of meters everyday and carries an entire set of scientific instruments with it.

We don’t know so far, when could we able to send human being to Mars. The failures of various missions sent to Mars, the huge cost involves in sending space crafts, are some of the reasons for hesitations in sending human being at present. So nothings like this has ever been attempted and it would take a number of test missions to prove out the concept.