Thursday, December 6, 2012

NASA & Mars – A Love Affair

Okay, so there’s a plan and NASA’s sharing it. Although it wasn’t even decided yet, NASA implemented the plan long ago with its first visits to the red planet back in July of 1997. The Sojourner which was the name of the rover and the Pathfinder which brought it to Mars successfully transmitted data until September. The Sojourner’s mission was similar to Curiosity’s pictures, rock and soil samples, but it didn’t have half of Curiousity’s capabilities.

Next in 2003 there was the Spirit which maintained mobility until 2010 and continued to send stationary data until earlier this year. In July, also of 2003, the Opportunity landed and is still operating now. Perhaps you have heard of Curiosity, landing earlier this year, but did you know that the first landing on Mars was made by Viking back in 1976? Or how about that in 1964 the Mariner 4 did a Mars fly-by? So we have a sort of history with Mars and it is only right we go on.

Next year NASA intends to send another probe to Mars, but this time the mission is a little more specific. After that we have another planned mission. One is to study the atmosphere and one is to drill into the rocks in a way that Curiosity can’t.

Now that’s a lot of Rovers, or is it? By 2030 there is a goal of a manned mission to Mars – Obama issued the challenge and NASA has accepted. They are doing all they can, learning all there is. Other scientists and engineers are working on the manned mission, the method of getting there, will we send a habitat first and if so what sort and to where, will the fuel be manufactured there or do we need to carry it with us. And who knows, by then we may have increased our ability to handle space travel, protect our astronauts from the radiation of space or the physical breakdowns caused by time in space and maybe we will make the trip in 39 days. It is all likely and I think probably.

I don’t think there was any doubt we were doing it, but the fact that NASA has made it official means that we have joined the inter-planetary travel group. Next stop the inter-stellar travel group.

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