For Ten Years NASA Has Been Capturing Images Of Mars – And They Reveal The Planet’s Amazing Beauty

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

On August 12, 2005, NASA launched an unmanned spacecraft. The idea was for them to capture photos of the unexplored planet. Mars is also known as the Red Planet. This is because the planet has a reddish hue when observed in the night sky. It is the fourth closest planet to the sun, right beside Earth, which is the third. Mars is just over half the size of Earth. It has just about 38 percent of the surface gravity than Earth does. Mars has water; however, because of the low atmospheric pressure on Mars, it has only 1 percent of the water that Earth does.

Water Ice

On Mars, there is a lot of water ice. Scientists believe that the Mars polar caps contain a great deal of ice. They believe that if all of the ice at the south pole of Mars were to melt, it would cover the whole planet in 36 feet of water. In 1610, a scientist was able to examine Mars through a telescope. It was then that the Italian astronomer Galileo made his breakthrough. In 1659, a Dutch scientist named Christiaan Huygens was the first scientist to identify a Martian feature, the volcanic plain of Syrtis Major. It was then determined that the length of a day on Mars was 24 hours and 30 minutes.

The Cold War Space Race

We couldn’t wait to get spaceships to Mars to explore. This started the Cold War Space Race between the USA and the USSR. The Soviets were the first to launch a probe to Mars in 1961, but the Americans were the first to find success with Mars-bound spaceships. The Soviet Union launched five missions to Mars between 1960 and 1962, but all of them failed. The US sent their first ship to Mars in 1964, but that one failed also. Later in 1964, the US spaceship, Mariner 4, made it to Mars. They had a successful flyby in July 1965. When the craft returned to Earth, it had detailed pictures of the surface of the planet.

Continued Mission

After the first flyby of Mars, more and more missions were sent to the planet. With technology, the missions were more successful. Regardless of the success, two out of three missions failed. In 1971, Mariner 7 managed to orbit around the whole planet. In 1976, Viking 1 and 2 were able to land on the surface of Mars. Viking 1 managed to get the first ever, color photo of the planet’s surface.

Searching For Optimal Landing Spots

In 1966, the Mars Global Surveyor spaceship was sent to space for a mapping exercise. It wasn’t going to land on Mars, but it was going to find optimal spots for spacecraft to land in the future. Finally, in 2008, the American spacecraft Phoenix landed in the northern pole of Mars. It was a robotic vehicle that had a probing arm. It was then that we confirmed that there is water on Mars in the form of ice.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

This spacecraft launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida in August 2005, and it cost $720 million to build. The spaceship was 21-feet tall, and it contained a radio antenna dish that was 10-feet in diameter. It was also fitted with 220 square feet of solar panels. It weighed 4,800 pounds when it was launched, and half of that was fuel to power the necessary 20 thrust engines.

The Mission

When the Orbiter was launched, it took seven months to get to Mars. The operation lasted for five months. The main objective of the Orbiter was to find out more about the past levels of water n Mars. Scientists knew that the water ran across the surface of the planet earlier. Now they wanted to know if there was still water present, allowing for living organisms to thrive on the planet for long periods of time.

The Purpose

The purpose of the mission was to measure the weather trends on the Red Planet. They wanted to know more about the seasonal changes and the makeup of the polar ice fields. They also wanted to search for dangerous landing areas, such as protruding rocks.

2008 Milestone

In 2008, the Phoenix that had been launched in August 2007 and it had a successful soft landing on Mars. They managed to get a photo of Phoenix as it parachuted down to Mars. The area where it landed looked a lot like the Earth’s polar regions that are covered with permafrost. The robotic arm was dropped to take samples of the soil on Mars. These samples confirmed that there was ice just below the surface.

2,054 Photos

During the mission, the spacecraft was able to capture 2,054 images of the Red Planet. The photos told them a lot about the planet. There are pictures of the areas where there was once water. There are a few frozen spots on the planet that are sheltered from the sun’s rays by deep folds of dunes. There is a photo that was taken in May, which is the Martian spring, where snow and ice on the ground are actually frozen carbon dioxide, also known as dry ice. For Ten Years NASA Has Been Capturing Images Of Mars – And They Reveal The Planet’s Amazing Beauty.