IntroductionNo planet beyond Earth has been studied as intensely as Mars. Recorded observations of Mars date as far back as the era of ancient Egypt over 4,000 years ago, when they charted the planet's movements in the sky. An international fleet of robotic spacecraft are currently studying Mars from all angles. The lineup: Mars Odyssey, Mars Express, Opportunity rover, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Curiosity rover, Mars Orbiter Mission, MAVEN and ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter. NASA's InSight arrived on November 26, 2018, with communications support from the twin MarCO cubesats, the first CubeSats sent into Deep Space.

    Mars Spacecraft Attempts

    Mars Spacecraft Attempts

    Source: Siddiqi, Asif A. Beyond Earth: A Chronicle of Deep Space Exploration, 1958-2016. NASA History Program Office, 2018.
    USSR /
    USA Japan ESA China India Russia /
    1960s 7 4 - - - - -
    1970s 7 4 - - - - -
    1980s 2 0 - - - - -
    1990s 1 4 1 - - - -
    2000s 0 5 0 1 - - -
    2010s 1 4 0 2 1 1 1
    Totals 18 23 1 3 1 1 1

    Significant Events

    Significant Events

    • 1659: Christiaan Huygens sketches the dark marking called Syrtis Major on Mars.
    • 1877: Giovanni Schiaparelli maps Mars, including canali, “channels” (not “canals”) he saw connecting some features.
    • 1877: Asaph Hall discovers the two moons of Mars, Phobos and Deimos.
    • 1965: NASA's Mariner 4 sends back 22 photos of Mars, the world's first close-up photos of a planet beyond Earth.
    • 1971: Mariner 9 becomes the first spacecraft to orbit Mars, and maps much of the surface.
    • 1976: Viking 1 and 2 land on the surface of Mars.
      Viking 2 Image
      The boulder-strewn field of red rocks reaches to the horizon nearly two miles from Viking 2 on Mars' Utopian Plain
    • 1997: Mars Pathfinder lands and dispatches Sojourner, the first wheeled rover to explore the surface of another planet.
    • 2002: Mars Odyssey begins its mission to make global observations and find buried water ice on Mars.
    • 2004: Twin Mars Exploration Rovers named Spirit and Opportunity find strong evidence that Mars once had long-term liquid water on the surface.
    • 2006: Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter begins returning high-resolution images as it studies the history of water on Mars and seasonal changes.
    • 2008: Phoenix finds signs of possible habitability, including the occasional presence of liquid water and potentially favorable soil chemistry.
    • 2012: NASA's Mars rover Curiosity lands in Gale Crater and finds conditions once suited for ancient microbial life on Mars.

    Notable Explorers



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    Project Manager

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    Whether it's introducing kids to space or teaching physics to PhD candidates, educators help share their knowledge with the public.



    Engineers design and build all types of machines, from what a spacecraft looks like to the software that directs where a rover goes each day. 



    From an astrophysicist to a volcanologist, scientists of all types pose questions and help find answers to the mysteries of our universe.

    The important thing about being a scientist or an engineer is learning how to think critically, learning how to be creative, learning problem solving and learning how to learn.

    Explore in 3D

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